This just in; my wife and I have had "internal discussions" about quitting our jobs and traveling around the world. Is it going to happen? Likely not. Very likely not. But we have talked about it and even considered the "what ifs" of the scenario and what we would have to do to make it happen. That's the funny thing about "internal discussions"; most times they don't land anywhere, but whether they do or not, they can at least give you a thought about where you are and what you might want to do.
The Phillies have had internal discussions, too. They've apparently talked about the possibility of trading Ryan Howard to St. Louis for Albert Pujols, if of course, the Cardinals would even want to trade Pujols. That's all that's happened on this front folks, and if anybody is telling you differently, they're wrong. And that's all Buster Olney said had happened in his column on SI.com where he disclosed those discussions. Apparently, Olney had a strong source and even knew who said what to whom, so he went with the story, because it's of interest. Since then, he's had to defend himself from people denying the story, misquoting the story and berating him for putting it out there. It shouldn't be surprising that the Phillies have kicked around Pujols name internally, since his future in St. Louis is slightly clouded. And if you think there might be a chance to acquire the best player in baseball, you would be a fool not to at least consider how it might happen and what it would take to get it done. And at that point, Ryan Howard is an obvious name to put out there, since he plays the same position as Pujols.
It also shouldn't be surprising that the Phillies have vehemently denied the story. They have to. Imagine the fury that would have broken out had Amaro said, "yeah, we've talked about dealing Howard." Even had he chosen his words more carefully, there would have been enough of a spark to ignite a fire, so coming out with a flat out denial - and you can't get anymore flat out than "that's a lie" - was the right way to go.
There are a number of reasons why this report from Olney took on a life of its own. First, it includes two of the best players in baseball and would be one of the biggest deals ever, if it were to actually happen. Second - and perhaps, most importantly - there is part of the trade that makes a whole lot of sense.
For the Phillies part, Albert Pujols will actually make less money over the next two seasons than Ryan Howard will. Howard is owed $39 million, while Pujols is owed $32 million, so the Phillies could save a little money which could go toward attempting to re-sign Jayson Werth. Further, Pujols is a right-handed hitter, which would help to break up the stretch of lefties in the Phillies lineup and, he's a better defensive first baseman. He also strikes out about one-third as much as Howard does and averages just slightly less in the home run department than Howard does.
In St. Louis, the deal could be attractive because Howard is from St. Louis and it may be easier for the Cardinals to re-sign him than it will be for them to re-sign Pujols. While Pujols and the Cardinals have talked about an extension, they haven't seemed to get very far and some believe that they won't get a deal done and Pujols will become a free agent following the 2011 season, leaving the Cardinals with just two draft picks as compensation. If they truly believe that they won't be able to re-sign Pujols, then they would likely be much better off dealing him at some point and getting something closer to what he's worth than a couple of draft picks would be. Meanwhile, Howard would likely love to play in St. Louis near his family and friends, and might be more agreeable to signing at a discounted price. Certainly, he'll get less on the free agent market than Pujols will, especially if both are out there at the same time.
The odds of a Pujols/Howard trade are certainly very long, but it wouldn't be out of the question. And Phillies fans may not want to hear it, but if a deal does take place, it may take more than just Ryan Howard to get Pujols. Let's face it, he is a better player than Howard and unless the Cardinals feel truly pressured to make a deal, they would be smart to ask for either another player or cash to even their salaries over the next couple of seasons.
Don't be surprised if you hear of other clubs having "internal discussions" about acquiring Pujols. Since his long-term future in St. Louis isn't completely clear, vultures may start to circle in the vicinity of the mid-west with their eyes on St. Louis to try to swoop in and pick off the biggest piece of meat on the Cardinals roster. Teams would be wrong to not at least consider what they may need to offer and whether it would make sense for them to make a play for Pujols if the opportunity presents itself.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some travel brochures to look over with my wife.