I just got back from finishing up my Christmas shopping when I sat down at my desk to see a tweet talking about Pujols and the Angels. It piqued my curiosity and I decided to scroll backwards and see what the root of the talk was. Then I spotted it, Pujols accepting a deal valued in the $240-250 million over 10 year range with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. My jaw slightly dropped.
For one, I didn’t think any team was going to step up and offer that sort of money. Pujols has been amazing his last 11 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, but over the last three years his numbers have slipped. Many defended his slump this year saying that he was trying to prove himself worthy of a big contract with Alex Rodriguez-type money. But what’s he going to do this next year as he tries to prove himself worth of the contract he got.
Joe Strauss is now reporting that the Angels’ offer is more likely closer to $255 million over 10 years and was comparable with the Marlins’ offer.
The Cardinals’ best offer bounced around quite a bit in the rumor mill. Their initial offer was reportedly the same as the $198 million over 9 year offer that they offered him back in January. Then they reportedly jumped to $220 million over 10 years after the Marlins went to 10 years. But it was later reported that they never officially went to 10 years.
Ultimately, only a few people know what happened in the negotiating room. And we are likely never to find out. But what does this mean to all involved.
For Albert, he turned down legend status in St. Louis for a payday.
I know baseball is a business and players today are always going to chase the money. Except over the last few years Albert convinced the people of St. Louis that he was a man of faith and of integrity. He said winning was more important to him and was willing to put a little bit of money where his mouth was on that if the need came. He consistently put off extension negotiation talks because he was under contract and the team had other priorities. He said that people who think he’s all about the money don’t know him very well. And how does it all add up?
He’ll be wearing an Angels uniform next season because they offered him more money.
It’s not because the Angels are a winning club. I still think the Rangers are a better team with more potential in the AL West. The Athletics could be contenders with the right pieces behind that pitching staff. And the Astros under new GM Jeff Luhnow will join the fray in 2013.
Meanwhile, you walked away from a team that is coming off of a World Series, with all it’s major parts returning, and adding a Cy Young contender to it’s rotation. Obviously it’s not about winning because you have a situation any player would kill for in St. Louis.
Only time will tell what this decision will do to his legacy in St. Louis. He’s still likely to go into the Hall of Fame as a Cardinal, but not only a Cardinal. Will he get the statue at the ballpark? Will he get trotted out in front of the crowds on Opening Days? One thing is for sure, his name won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Stan Musial and Bob Gibson.
He may not regret this decision today, but I think he will at some point wish that he’d never left St. Louis. It’s a better baseball town. It’s a town that would have let him decline without anger out of perspective of what he’s done the last 11 years. It’s a town that would have vehemently defended him against all opposers. It’s a town that would have celebrated his legacy for the rest of his life.
How much is that worth? $30 million?
For the Cardinals, they are a team that is in excellent position to deal with the loss of Albert Pujols. They have Lance Berkman signed for 2012. Once Allen Craig returns from his knee surgery, he will be more than capable in the outfield. They also have the young Matt Adams who has hit up a storm the last two years in the minor leagues who will get a Spring Training invite and probably end up in Memphis, but his chances of making the big league club exponentially increased.
Right now the Cardinals are in position for a team makeover. It’s probably a situation that John Mozeliak has quietly drooled over since he became the Cardinals GM. A chance to make the Cardinals his team, instead of holding onto the successful members of the past. Matt Holliday is the only offensive player signed beyond this season. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have two more years left. Jaime Garcia is the only pitcher than goes beyond 2013.
The build from within philosophy is now completely dedicated to now that Pujols has left.
Pujols’ departure also opens up some serious payroll room. I am a fan of bringing back Skip Schumaker to play second base. He’s one of the better hitters on the team and made huge strides defensively last year, but it seems if he does come back he will be relegated to a utility role.
They will need to spend on one or two players, but who will it be. Most of your players who are considered top-tier candidates are on the decline of their careers, have been plagued by injury, or both. The best value players have already made their departure from the market.
The team will need to look at a corner outfielder or first baseman and will also need to look at a shortstop. Jimmy Rollins has appeared to be a favorite of the Cardinals’ according to the rumor mill, but I’m still on the fence about him (though I do like him more than Furcal or many of the other options). And a name I heard floated as a potential outfield bat was Ryan Ludwick.
It also frees up some cash for the impending free agency of Adam Wainwright. If I had to choose between Wainwright and Pujols, I’d take Wainwright every day of the week. It’s harder to find an elite pitcher than it is to find an elite hitter, and elite pitchers cost more too.
For me, I’d often thought that it was in the Cardinals’ best interests to let Albert walk if he was going to cost much more than $22 million a year. It seems that Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak agreed with me.
I’ll be sad that Albert is gone. I wanted to see him finish his career with the Cardinals. To be the legend that I can turn to my kids and say, “I watched him play his entire career with the Cardinals and he was amazing.” However, I’m a Cardinals fan whether Albert Pujols plays for them or not.
I believe this is a mistake for Albert. I also believe that the Cardinals will be more successful over the next 5 years than the Angels will be.