In a complete shocker of a move, Albert Pujols has reportedly signed a ten-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim worth between $240 million and $260 million over the life of the contract. The move is surprising only in the sense that the Angles were not one of the teams reportedly talking to Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano actively during this week’s winter meetings in Dallas, however, many baseball experts had identified the Angels as a potential suitor throughout the season before Pujols’s free agency became official.
Once the hurt feelings and emotions are settled, this move actually has an opportunity to be a win/win/win for Pujols, the Angels, and the St. Louis Cardinals. In this column I wrote on Tuesday, I went into great detail about the benefits of establishing a new legacy with a new team, in a city with a heavy Latin American population. Well Los Angeles provides many, if not, all of those same benefits with a large hispanic community and with L.A. being the nation’s second largest media market. Pujols is still a young enough player that he can have a great second half to his career statistically, win another championship or two, and go down as one of the greatest players in Angles history.
The Angles are obviously getting one of baseball’s greatest players, a guy that their fans will instantly embrace, and will provide a huge return on their investment from a performance and marketing perspective. While there is always a ton of risk associated with a ten year contract, the Angels do play in the American League, so they can ease Pujols into the DH role over the latter years of the contract as his health and/or skills deteriorate.
The Cardinals aren’t complete losers here either. Their fans are loyal to the brand, so while there will be a great deal of disappointment initially. This will not significantly affect the teams ability to draw. The Cardinals also happen to be a well run organization so there is no question that they will use that money in other areas to help the team long-term. They have a lot of good young talent on the roster already in the form of Adam Wainwright, David Freese, Jaime Garcia, and Yadier Molina (who they can now go after more aggressively with the Pujols money freed up), all of which will be looking at new contracts or salary arbitration in the next 2-3 years. The Cardinals would have a hard time signing any or all of those players if they had $22 – $25 million a year tied up in Pujols.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out, but I am willing to bet that five years from now, this will end up being a decision that all three parties are happy with.