Adrian Gonzalez Will Be Following Albert Pujols Negotiations With Heightened Interest It was late in spring training last year when Joe Mauer signed a massive extension with the Minnesota Twins that gave him the fourth-largest contract in baseball history.

Naturally, at least in Fort Myers, attention turned to Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez, who was entering a contract year and therefore had to have an opinion on how Mauer had set the bar for the next-best backstop on the market.

The response, or at least part of it, was not surprising.

“He deserves every penny he got,” Martinez told reporters the day the Mauer news broke.

Mauer is considered by many to be the best all-around player in the game, but such debates will always include St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols, who is in virtually the same situation that Mauer was at this time last year. Pujols and the Cardinals are hoping to finalize an extension before spring training, and the rest of baseball waits.

Chances are, another Red Sox player is watching with some interest.

Although it’s likely that Adrian Gonzalez and Boston have just about come to terms on an extension that will be announced at a later date, it’s safe to say that what happens with Pujols has the potential to cause for a late alteration. Seven years and $154 million, the rumored agreement, is nice, but if a counterpart of Gonzalez is going so far beyond that, shouldn’t the Sox’ first baseman aim a little higher?

After all, Pujols might make history.

According to reports, Pujols could be seeking as much as $300 million for 10 years. If Gonzalez, who is more than two years younger than Pujols, wants to maximize his opportunities, he and his agent might want to leave a little wiggle room in whatever they have cooking with the Red Sox.

Not that Gonzalez is on the level with Pujols, but neither was Martinez with Mauer. Once the bar is set everyone else can gauge their own value, and if the bar is set to the stratosphere with Pujols, then surely Gonzalez can shoot for the troposphere (that’s the layer below, for those of you who were sick that day).

Pujols can make his demands for several reasons. One, he’s that good. Two, he’s just following the lead of others, just like Martinez hoped to do with Mauer and like Gonzalez should do with Pujols.

Just over two years after Alex Rodriguez inked an extension with the New York Yankees for 10 years and $275 million, Ryan Howard received an extension with Philadelphia for five years at an average annual value of $25 million.

Surely, in what has been a player-friendly offseason, Pujols can ask for his record-setting amount. He will be a year younger than Rodriguez was when he signed, has a stronger link to his franchise than A-Rod and is producing at a far more consistent clip than Rodriguez was at the time.

As for Howard, he leads all of baseball in home runs and RBIs since 2006, but still isn’t in the same class as Pujols. King Albert has every reason to ask for the world.

If the Cardinals fail to extend Pujols by the time he reports to Florida next month, the slugger has said he will cut off negotiations. If he follows through on that promise, he could become the most sought-after free agent ever. And if he hits the market next offseason looking for someone to pay him the largest contract in baseball history, he’ll be the one looking at other players for something to go by, Gonzalez being one such player.

Although Gonzalez wouldn’t be setting the bar in that scenario, chances are that Pujols will be hoping he gets every penny he deserves. And if Pujols officially signs in the next month, Gonzalez will be thinking the same thing.

Will Adrian Gonzalez shoot for a big contract if Pujols gets what he’s asking for? Share your thoughts below.