It would appear, on the surface, that there is no connection between the news that Cardinals 20-game winner Adam Wainwright may have elbow reconstruction surgery and the Albert Pujols contract impasse, but I'm not the only one who thinks the loss of the Cards' pitching ace might actually push Pujols out of town.
My former Baltimore Sun colleague, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, speculated the other day that a dramatic downturn in the potential of the 2011 club might make Pujols more open to waiving his no-trade clause and allowing the Cardinals to move him to a big-market contender.
I've been pondering the other side of the equation. The Cardinals are facing the possibility of losing Pujols to free agency next year, so they've got to consider whether there's any point in taking that risk if the club's playoff hopes are seriously diminished. Pujols has the hammer, but -- as Ken pointed out -- he might be more open-minded if he were presented with an opportunity to move to a bigger stage and get his big deal early.
Nobody in St. Louis wants to think about a future without Pujols, but he might bring enough talent in return to restock the relatively thin minor league system and give the club a head-start on its long-term future.