As the allure of a new Miami Thrice dominated headlines, a third MLB club made an 11th hour move to nab the greatest player in baseball history off of free agency. The Los Angeles Angels, a team whose name was absent in the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes a mere 24 hours ago, shocked the baseball world to sign away St. Louis’s All-Universe slugger.
The deal will be worth $254 million over 10 years, making it the second-highest contract in the history of the MLB, trailing only A-Rod’s $275 million contract signed with the Yankees in 2008. And, for good measure, the Angels signed the best starting pitcher on the market in CJ Wilson, offering the former Rangers ace $77.5 million over five years.
A couple of Angels-related thoughts:
1. Last year’s Angels fielded a competitive team while giving substantial playing time to rookies Mark Trumbo (who had an excellent year in slugging 29 home runs) and, later in the season, Mike Trout. It’ll be interesting to see how Pujols helps further their development. Having him in the lineup will benefit everyone; a notorious high-OBP guy, Pujols will wear down starting pitching.
2. A lineup built around Pujols, Torii Hunter, Trout, Trumbo, Howard Kendrick and Vernon Wells might not be as good as people think. Minus Pujols and Hunter, the Angels’ core guys are either incredibly young or very, very inconsistent. In particular, Kendrick and Wells never seem to play to their full potential.
3. One of the benefits to signing with an AL club will be clear in three or four years when Pujols switches from first base to DH. Hell, the transition could begin sooner than that. Pujols will be 32 on opening day, and they already possess a more than serviceable first basemen in the 25-year-old Mark Trumbo. Pujols is a major, major investment, so any steps to ease his burden and prolong his playing career will be heavily considered.
4. You have to feel bad for Kendrys Morales. At the peak of his career, he looked to be everything a club could want out of a first basemen: power, fielding, plate discipline. And then, thanks to one of the most bizarre injuries seen in the sport, he went down for almost two full seasons. Still on the Angels roster, look for him to get cut soon, probably to be picked up on a minor league contract somewhere. No way he staves off Trumbo and Pujols for a 1B/DH job. The same can be said to a lesser extent for Bobby Abreu, who has in all likelihood seen his last days as an Angel.
5. Finally, look at the Angels’ starting lineup: Jared Weaver, Dan Haren and now CJ Wilson. Minus maybe Philadelphia, that has to be best one-through-three in baseball. They will be a force in the playoffs.
6. As tempting as it is to compare this situation to LeBron’s defection to Miami, it’s a lazy comparison. St. Louis fans are obviously going to be heartbroken, but the fact of the matter is that Pujols won two pennants with the Cardinals. LeBron didn’t win one in Cleveland. And the way Pujols left was more-or-less professional; maybe if he dedicated an hour-long segment on ESPN to where he was going (and used the Boys and Girls Club to cover his narcissism), we could have a conversation. But, as it stands, please refrain from comparing Pujols to LeBron.
For good measure though, here’s video of one dejected Cards fan burning a cheap Pujols jersey.