With another championship in the bag for Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, the question that has lingered since the All-Star first baseman first set foot in spring training still remains as unclear as some of the late moves Ron Washington made in Game 6.

Even before the champagne that soaked the Cardinals clubhouse began to dry up -  reporters questions began bringing up the harsh reality for both Pujols and management. This could be it.

The Cardinals have an exclusive window to negotiate a new deal that could fetch Pujols anywhere between $250 million to $300 million before other teams start dialing in Pujols’ agent’s number.

And trust me there aren't that many on the list that will be willing to put all of their eggs in the basket. The Red Sox and Yankees already have first basemen locked in, which leaves outside chances he will land with teams like the Miami Marlins or Chicago Cubs.

So we have to ask ourselves who will be the first side to give in or just walk away?

The organization had previously committed to one of the Game 7 heroes, Chris Carpenter, by giving him a two year extension at $21 million for 2012 and 2013 and fellow starter Adam Wainwright, who missed the season after recovering from elbow surgery in February, has also recently had his club options picked up for 2012 and 2013.

But it doesn't end there.

Keep in mind that they are already into the second year of Matt Holliday's seven-year $120 million deal that runs through the 2016 season with a club option for 2017. They also handed Lance Berkman a $12 million extension for next season in September. They've invested over $19 million in starters Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse and will certainly pick up the $7 million club option for Yadier Molina - whom La Russa loves behind the plate.

Then you have the other millions sprinkled throughout the team.

So what will chairman Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak do?

Will they let one of or perhaps the most feared hitter in baseball walk away, say to their hated rivals, the Chicago Cubs, who certainly will be looking to make a splash?

Do they even entertain the idea of signing the other first baseman in this year's free agent class, maybe a guy from Milwaukee named Prince Fielder?

The reality is there are more question marks in St. Louis than can be found on the green outfit worn by the Riddler in the Batman series.

"They're going to try like heck to make it work, and we'll see if it can work or not," manager Tony LaRussa said.

At the end of the day they could let him go and invest throughout other areas and plug in Allen Craig, another hero of the World Series, at first base.

Pujols, a career .328 hitter in his 11 season with St. Louis, hit below .300 for the first time in his career, finishing the season at a .299 clip with 37 homers and 99 RBIs, the first time he has had less that 100 runs driven in a season.

With his team facing a 10 1/2 game deficit in the NL Wild Card behind the Atlanta Braves as the month of August came to an end, he rose to the occasion going 38 for 107 (.355) in September with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

When the postseason came calling he hit. Pujols started off light against the Phillies in the NLDS, as he went 7 for 20 (.350) with one RBI but was amazing against the Brewers in the NLCS, going 11 for 23 (.478) with a pair of homers while driving in nine runs. Although he
hit .240 in the World Series against the Rangers, who could forget the three-homer night he had in Game 3, a game they needed to win after losing the lead in the late innings in Game 1.

Pujols is 31-years-old and looking for an A-Rod-like 10 year deal. It was reported back before the season began that he had turned down a deal that would have paid him $195 million over nine years.

But could you really blame Pujols for turning such a deal down? The man is a three-time NL MVP who has consistently put the best offensive numbers up for the last eleven seasons while never being implicated for using performance enhancing substances.

Will he go ahead and think about the team’s finances, be a team-first player like he has always been and forgo the greener pastures, keep his family in St. Louis for the rest of his career and let the Cardinals use a coupon on a hometown discount?

Or does he cash in on what could be the biggest annual pay day in the history of the game?

Pujols celebrated a second World Series championship with the Cards that guarantees he will be cemented as a Cardinals legend along with Hall of Fame greats like Musial, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.  A thought that was perhaps so overwhelming and grandiose that he didn't want to even fathom the idea that he was wearing the Cardinals uniform for the last night. 

"You know what? I'm not even thinking about that," Pujols said. "I'm thinking about, you know, we're the world champions and I'm going to celebrate and whenever that time comes, you know, then we'll deal with it. ... You never know when it's going to be your last one, so I'm going to enjoy this one like the same way that I did my first one."

Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at elpiloto137@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.

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Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at elpiloto137@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc

 

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