I’m watching MLB Network right now, and it’s so obvious how hard of a time Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto is having fighting off an ear-to-ear smile. And who can blame him? His team just got the best slugger and best pitcher on the free-agent market on the same day.
Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson each agreed to deals with the Angels. Pujols’ deal is for 10 years somewhere between $250 and $260 million. Wilson’ deal is 5 years and $77.5 million.
It’s a tough day to be a Texas Rangers fan, having lost Wilson to a division rival to boot.
And it’s a tough day for St. Louis Cardinals fans too. My annual ballpark tour landed me at Busch Stadium last year, and I got to see first-hand the way that city cheered and flat-out worshipped Pujols.
But Cardinals fans shouldn’t be discouraged. I know there’s always a desire to have the great players in the game play for the same teams throughout their careers, a la Stan Musial and Bob Gibson. But these are much different times, and they require a much different approach.
And let’s face it: It’s a two-way street. Pujols walked away from a big offer from the Cardinals. He could have been a rich man in St. Louis. But he decided he wanted to be elsewhere. Not much the Cardinals can do about it.
Pujols is the most feared hitter in the game. But he is 31 years old, and his batting average and OPS numbers have dropped in each of the last three years. He still hit .299 with 37 homers this past season. I’m sure we all wish we could regress to something like that, but you get the picture.
The point is that five, six or seven years into this deal, this could be a really bad deal. A franchise-killing deal. The Angels did the same thing – on a much smaller scale – four years ago by signing a 32-year-old Torii Hunter to a six-year, $90 million deal. Four years into that deal, Hunter is not the same player, and the Angels have been eclipsed by the Rangers as the dominant team in the AL West.
The Minnesota Twins saw first-hand this past season what can happen when a player making $23 million per season contributes very little. The Twins’ woes went well beyond Mauer, but when looking at how they fell to 63 wins, Mauer gets the first glance. People are always going to start by focusing their frustrations on the man who signed a lucrative eight-year deal and who once upon a time was mentioned in the same breath as Pujols when they both won MVPs in the same year.
What the Cardinals lost in a star slugger, they make up in payroll flexibility. And Prince Fielder is still out there too. How would Brewers rooters like to watch NL Central rivals like the Cards and Cubs launch into a bidding war over their free-agent slugger?
Give the Angels credit. The Dodgers are down, and they are seizing control of that Los Angeles market. But don’t hang your heads in St. Louis either. That’s a great organization and will continue to be one.