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The pros and cons of a Howard for Pujols trade, and how they could revolutionize baseball

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It's the kind of trade you might make in your fantasy baseball league. In real life however, it raises quite a few eyebrows. Those were similar Will Ryan Howard be "trotting" somewhere else soon?sentiments shared by ESPN's Buster Olney  several days ago when he reported that the Phillies  have discussed a trade involving Ryan Howard  and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. GM Ruben Amaro flatly denies the rumor, but Olney stands by his story. Now we all know that where there is smoke, fire may not be too far behind. As usual, the lips of the Phillies brass are sealed tighter than the operatives of Operation Mongoose. I'm not implying that this deal will be made, but nobody saw Cliff Lee leaving town did they?  Just saying.........

Either way you look at it, this trade would easily be regarded as one the biggest swaps in the history of the game if it came to fruition. Let's break down some reasons why a deal of this magnatude could or would be possible.

Why the Phillies would want Pujols:

Simply put, Albert Pujols is the best all-around baseball player in the game today. When all is said and done, chances are he will be mentioned in the comapny of the top five greatest baseball players ever. I thought Tony Gwynn  was the best pure hitter I had ever seen, then I saw Pujols. Think of Pujols as Gwynn with power. Though he hasn't quite reached Gwynn's single season batting average totals (Gwynn hit .394 in the strike-Albert Pujols photo: http://www.profantasybaseball.com/images/Albert-Pujols-Pictures/Albert-Pujols-3.jpgshortened 1994 season, while Pujols' .359 in 2003 is his career high), he is only four total points lower than Gwynn for a career average at this stage in his career (.334 for 10 seasons, .338 for Gwynn over 20 seasons). The man walks more than he strikes out, and the lowest he has ever finished in the MVP voting is 9th. The Phillies would be adding a right-handed power bat to a lineup that currently has just three full-time right handed hitters (Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco).

With Pujols, you automatically reduce the strikeouts in your lineup by over 100, and you improve your defense. As evidenced by last year's World Series, Howard is becoming more and more vulnerable to the breaking ball as each season passes. His defense has improved, but he still hasn't seemed to conquer his "Ricky Jordan Disease."

Why the Phillies would not want Pujols:

Pujols has a history of elbow problems and a lingering back injury. His elbow is reportedly fine, but when you have a back problem, you have an EVERYTHING problem. It pretty much bothers everything you do during your usual daily routine. Take it from someone who has played gigs and loaded drums in and out of his SUV for 15 years, and who used to work out with his share of heavy weights for the better part of 20 years. To make a long story short, a back injury is a red flag, and could scare quite a few teams off who are inquiring about Pujols.

Despite the previously mentioned holes in his game, Howard still averages 49 home runs a year and over 140 RBI's. NOBODY in the history of the game has matched his power numbers for the start of a career, and NOBODY (not even Pujols) can carry a team like Howard carries the Phillies when he gets hot (see September 2008). At the same time, Pujols has never had a lineup as potent as the Phillies lineup from top to bottom (although Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen complemented him nicely several years ago). And let's face it, the Phillies are quite the juggernaut right now. If it ain't broke.............

Homecoming and Contracts:

Howard, who grew up in St. Louis, would definitely miss the Phillies. However, the prospect of playing in his hometown would be quite appealing to him for at least a few seasons.

There was talk that Pujols wanted to wait and sign an extension with the Cardinals to see if they were able to compete in the next several years. Since then, they signed Matt Holliday  to a $120 million dollar contract extension. Pujols will be 32 entering his free agency. To tie up that much money between Holliday and Pujols is a gamble.

As far as current contracts go, this trade would be a wash for the two teams because the Phillies and Cardinals may lose their respective superstar players anyway after 2011, when Pujols and Howard will be most likely seeking record setting deals in free agency. Pujols will almost surely be looking to top "A-Fraud'"s 10 year-$275 million deal. Despite Pujols being the better all-around player, Howard will not be too far behind with his contract demands, and don't think the Phillies aren't well aware of this. It's not a stretch to say that Pujols and Howard could be the Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally  of their generation in the sense that their scenarios could singlehandedly force Major League Baseball  to restructure their rules. Don't be surprised if MLB attempts to institute a salary cap after the current  Collective Bargaining Agreement  expires in December 2011 (right when Pujols and Howard are in their free agency). If something is not done, these escalating salaries will reach even more astronimical proportions that could permenantly ruin this game. Enough is enough.

This will be an interesting story to follow if it continues to develop legs.

Stay Tuned

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com