ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals formally offered arbitration to Albert Pujols on Wednesday, ensuring that if the superstar is playing for another club in 2012, they'll get some recompense.
Pujols will likely decline arbitration, since accepting an offer is tantamount to agreeing to a one-year contract with the club that offered. Pujols is seeking a long-term deal and will certainly get one somewhere.
The first baseman is the highest-rated free agent in the rankings issued by the Elias Sports Bureau, not surprising for a three-time National League Most Valuable Player. The Type A/Type B, Elias-based system will not be used after this season, as a provision of the new Collective
For now, though, the arbitration offer means that if Pujols leaves -- and it's entirely unclear whether he will remain or depart -- the Cardinals will be compensated in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. They would receive the signing team's first- or second-round pick as well as a compensatory "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds.
That, of course, is not the ideal scenario for the club, which adamantly maintains that it wishes to sign Pujols. However, no follow-up offer has been extended, according to an industry source.
"We're very hopeful, and we're going to do everything we can to see that we can keep Albert a Cardinal for life," team president Bill DeWitt III said on Tuesday night at the premiere event for the 2011 World Series DVD.
Pujols, who is currently on vacation, met with the Miami Marlins earlier this month and received a nine-year offer. Other teams are still expected to get in the bidding, and Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, may yet meet with other clubs while Pujols is gone.
The Cardinals also offered arbitration to right-hander Edwin Jackson but declined to do so for their other three rated free agents: Octavio Dotel, Rafael Furcal and Arthur Rhodes. All are Type B free agents, but the club was not required to offer arbitration to Dotel -- whose label was adjusted from Type A to B on Tuesday -- in order to receive compensation if he should sign elsewhere.
Of the four, the Cardinals retain some interest in return engagements with Dotel and Furcal, and possibly Rhodes, but Jackson isn't expected to return. The Cardinals have five starting pitchers under contract for 2012 -- Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook -- and traded for Jackson with the expectation that he would depart via free agency.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.