Baseball BeatDecember 08, 2011
The New-Look Angels
By Rich Lederer

The news that the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols to a ten-year contract for $250 million has motivated me to put up my first post in a month.

While I would have preferred a shorter and less expensive contract, anything under ten years and $250 million was not going to seal the deal. As such, the way to think about this signing from an Angels' perspective is to break it into two five-year periods. That's right, 5x30 and 5x20 for an average of 10x25. Sure, 5x25 and 5x15 might be closer to what Pujols is likely to produce in terms of value but an aggregate of $200 million was going to come up short of luring the three-time NL MVP to Orange County.

Pujols turns 32 in January so the Angels just signed him to a 10-year deal with a no trade clause for his age 32-41 year-old seasons. I think he will give the Angels five very good-to-great seasons for a 1B and five average-to-good seasons for a 1B/DH. If one thinks about it as I suggested above, the Angels can easily justify the first five seasons. I mean, wasn't the consensus calling for as much as an 8 x 25-30M deal as recently as last winter? Sure, Albert's numbers fell off a tad this year but he put together an outstanding second half and postseason. In other words, I believe he is basically the same player today as he was perceived a year ago. Pujols may not earn his keep during the second half of the contract unless baseball salaries inflate significantly between now and then. But that's the risk the Angels had to take to acquire the greatest right-handed hitter of the past 80 years, if not ever.

Ironically, after signing Pujols and C.J. Wilson (5/$77.5M), the Angels actually have more flexibility than they did yesterday. Therefore, it says here that Arte Moreno and Jerry DiPoto will pull off at least one more headline signing or trade before spring training. At a minimum, they have freed up Mark Trumbo and possibly Ervin Santana. In addition, the Halos can easily move Peter Bourjos, if need be, plus Bobby Abreu (if they agree to eat at least half of his contract) and either Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis.

Where am I going with this? Well, I wouldn't rule out going after David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman. The Mets are reportedly interested in Bourjos. The Nats have been linked to him, too, and have indicated a desire to shore up center field and first base. Why not a Bourjos and Trumbo deal for Zimmerman? The Mets have Ike Davis and Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta aren't likely to be interested in Trumbo's low OBP. As such, the Angels might have to replace Trumbo with Hank Conger. Either way, I would only give up those packages for Wright or Zimmerman if I could sign them to a longer-term deal first as both are under team control for just two more years. Wright is owed $15M in 2012 with a team option at $16M for 2013 and Zimmerman is due $12M in 2012 and $14M in 2013.

Let's dream for a minute, Angels fans. Assuming the Halos trade Bourjos and either Conger or Trumbo for Wright or Zimmerman, here is a potential lineup for 2012:

Trout, CF
Kendrick, 2B
Wright or Zimmerman, 3B
Pujols, 1B
Morales, DH
Hunter, RF
Wells, LF
Iannetta, C
Aybar, SS

While I realize that Mike Scioscia would never start the season with Trout as the lead-off hitter, he can flip Trout and Erick Aybar in April and May until he realizes how much better Trout is. After he makes that change, he can flip Chris Iannetta and Aybar if he's worried about having three RHB in the 6th through 8th slots.

If Kendrys Morales doesn't recover from his leg injury, then the Angels can slide Abreu into the role of DH, hit him first or second in the batting order, slide Howie Kendrick down to sixth or seventh, and not miss much of a beat.

Here is how the starting rotation stacks up:


That would be about as strong as any rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Here is how the bullpen shapes up at this moment in time:

(and perhaps two of three of Jepsen, Richards, and Cassevah)

Add Ryan Madson (hey, it's not my money) as the closer and you're looking at a team that would be favored to win the World Series.


You can read more about the Pujols and Wilson signings at Halos Heaven, which has several articles and links to other posts at SB Nation.


Gotta find a spot for Latroy Hawkins in that bullpen as well, Rich. Though admittedly, he's probably going to feel a little out of place at the presser when the Angels introduce their new signings.

Hi Seitz, I was so excited by the Pujols and Wilson signings that I completely overlooked Hawkins. One year, $3 million works for me. Slide him right behind Downs.

It's a great day to be an Angel, isn't it? Waking up to this was the best birthday present I could have gotten, even though I never would have dreamed it was possible.

You forgot about the newly acquired Latroy Hawkins in the bullpen picture. Or did you.

In what world would the Nationals trade Zimmerman for Bourjos and Trumbo?

Bourjos is a better player and a more valuable property than you probably think. He is considerably younger and cheaper than Zimmerman *and* outplayed him in terms of WAR last season, even if you adjust for the latter's reduced playing time. As such, I don't think such a trade is inconceivable at all.

I said that fully knowing that Bourjos is a very valuable trade chip. But that trade has literally 0% chance of happening. Nationals have no reason to trade Zimmerman for at least another year, and if they were to trade him this year, it would take a lot more upside than Trumbo and Bourjos to net him.

Soam: You may be right. If so, the Angels can turn their attention to Wright. A Bourjos and Conger for Wright trade was in the rumor mill this past week and it was thought be some Angels fans to be too much.

I do think they have a chance at Wright, but I agree with the Angels fans who think Conger and Bourjos is too steep a price to pay for him. They have flexibility now, but I wouldn't use it to break the bank for Wright. Stick Trumbo at 3B, Pujols at 1B, and Bourjos and Trout in the OF. Morales can DH whenever he is ready.

RICH, I think the Angels are going to shift gears out of bold mode now. I could see them sending Abreu away for a low prospect to relieve themselves of his $9 Million owed in 2012 (Thanks Tony Reagins, not). At this point Trout is depth in AAA until they flat out give up on Wells. Izturis or Callaspo might be moved and an on-the-job-training of Trumbo at 3B experiment conducted. Welcome to a whole new Los Angeles of Anaheim.

Really, he's better than Willie Mays?

And what about the rumors that he's actually older than his stated age? Has that ever been refuted yet?

And as great as that rotation is, I think the Giants are still arguably better. Wilson, Santana, and Williams are looking at regression to their BABIP's.

Still, got to stand up and applaud the job done by the Angel's this off-season, very impressive...

Albert Pujols is a better hitter than Willie Mays. Any number of stats would confirm my statement. Using OPS+ as an example, Pujols has a career 170. Through age 31, Mays had a career 159. Peak OPS+? Pujols 190, Mays 184. Seasons equal to or greater than 150 through age 31? Pujols 11-for-11, Mays eight.

Mays was a great all-round player. One of the very best of all-time. But he was not quite as good as Pujols when it came to hitting only.

OK, see your point now, I thought you said player, my apologies.

Nice analysis of how he's been better.

So they negotiated a huge TV contract, which is an advantage St. Louis absolutely cannot compete with, and used the ill-gotten gains to steal a mid-market franchise's star. This is distinguishable from what the Yankees do how, exactly?

God, I hate baseball sometimes. Might as well get it over with and contract any franchise not in a top 5 media market.

So Pujols will be 32 next year, is increasingly putting on weight (go compare photos of him from last year and him from, say, 2006) and increasingly getting injured.

Here are his numbers from the last 4 seasons in ba/obp/slg:


Note the decline over a couple years. If last year was not a blip, the next ten numbers in each of those columns will not satisfy the angels.

Fred, your comment gets to my ultimate fear in all of this: that while franchises in flyover country can compete & win at times, they won't be able to sign their big time stars long term, unless they're willing to ignore winning. The Cards loss of Pujols just crushes me. I've long hoped the Cards could compete with the big boys, that they weren't in danger of becoming the Royals...losing Pujols shows that they really are closer to the bottom of the food chain. Yes, I realize they'll be able to compete, and long term, they may be better suited to survive having to doll out that kind of contract...

while the Angels gained an All-Star 1B who has been the best hitter this decade, the Cards lost an icon. They lost a member of Mount Rushmore.

I don't blame Pujols for going after the $, and I hope he calls it that instead of stating he wanted to go to the best place to win, and I don't blame the Cards...this move is bad for the competitive balance of baseball. If the NL's historically best franchise can't afford to sign Pujols, what's that mean for the others? The Pirates might as well fold, Brewers? We'll 2011 was nice. The Reds? Good luck fielding a consistent winner Mr. Jocketty. Buy the Dodgers & Mets right now while their stock is low because in a few years, they'll be the only NL franchises outside of Philly that can compete.

What makes people assume the Cardinals "couldn't afford" to sign Pujols? My bet is they could (they are a very wealthy, successful franchise) but chose not to go as high. We might want to ask ourselves why that is.


"hoped the Cards could compete with the big boys"?
"in danger of becoming the Royals"?
"closer to the bottom of the food chain"?

You do realize that signing Pujols to a 10-year, $250M+ contract is a bad move for any team that wants to get good long-term value out of their investment, right? (recognizing that the Angels will realize more off-the-field value with Pujols than he would have provided the Cardinals).

You do realize that the Cardinals will be MORE competitive a few years into this deal than they would have been if they had "won" the Pujols sweepstakes, right?

While the Cardinals COULD HAVE signed Pujols---believe me, the money's there---it would have been a bad move for the future of the franchise.

Such a signing would have done three things: cemented Pujols' legacy as a "Career Cardinal"; ensured that the Cardinals would have had a great-hitting 1b for the next three, maybe four years; ensured that the Cardinals would have had a huge albatross making 20-25% of the payroll and performing in the middle tier (or lower) among league 1b for 6 or 7 years after that, severely limiting its ability to be competitive.

The Cardinals already got the best 11 seasons out of Albert Pujols; they already won two World Series with him; they are already at the place the Angels are trying to get; the difference is the Angels will be trying to get there with an ever-declining version of the Cardinals' Pujols, and will be paying a premium to do it.

"You do realize that signing Pujols to a 10-year, $250M+ contract is a bad move for any team that wants to get good long-term value out of their investment, right?"

You do realize that a $3 billion TV contract ensures that the Angels couldn't give a tinker's damn?

"While the Cardinals COULD HAVE signed Pujols... it would have been a bad move for the future of the franchise."

Of course it would have been. But see, it doesn't have to be a bad move for the Angels, because they can afford to continue to pay Pujols through his decline, whereas St. Louis couldn't.

Aaron is right, the Cardinals absolutely cannot compete with that. And Fred is spot-on: How is this any different from what everybody loathes about the Yankees? I'll take poetic license, mix sports, and sort of quote what Dan Gilbert asked of David Stern: When are we just going to rename all but about five or so teams the Washington Generals?

As I told a close friend and fellow Cardinals fan, it really hurts to have a mid-level salary budget. Look where it got us this year!

As great as Pujols has been, I wouldn't give him a 10-year guaranteed contract, but I also wouldn't give Babe Ruth in his prime a 10-year contract. The Angels can count on 5 productive years from Pujols along with 5 years of regrets.

Berkman will do a better than average job at 1B in 2012. The Birds will once again contend for the postseason, although they'll have to find different ways to win than relying on an offensive force like #5.

Not sure this move helps the Angels. David Wright has become a butcher at third base and losing two chips to add him and gaining maybe a few wins if Callaspo regresses defensively doesn't seem to make the Angels any better.