Hey baseball fans!
The Winter Meetings are here and teams are already signing players to gigantic contracts. The question is, however, will the contracts be worth it? In this new mini-series on Baseball with Matt, I will be examining the careers of current baseball players after they signed huge contracts and seeing if the team that signed them has gotten enough back in return. The first player I am analyzing will be Albert Pujols.
Before the Big Bucks:
From 2001-2011, Albert Pujols was perhaps the best player in baseball. A first baseman for the Cardinals, Prince Albert batted .328 with an average of 40 home runs and 121 RBIs per season during those years. He made nine All Star Games and won the NL MVP three times. He also helped the Cardinals win the 2006 and 2011 World Series. But after the 2011 season, Pujols was granted free agency and signed a ten-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. What a big contract, right? Well, at the time, Pujols was one of the best of the best in the MLB and the Angels needed some help in the lineup. Since then, however, things have not been the same for the slugging future Hall of Famer.
After playing with the Angels for five seasons, in my opinion, it's safe to say that this deal was not worth it for LA and here's why. Sure, Albert has averaged 29 home runs a season in Southern California, but other than that, his numbers have been significantly worse. His batting average per season with the Angels is a mediocre .266, 62 points lower than when playing by the Arch. His difference in slugging percentage is even worse: .474 compared to .617. And don't even get me started on his WAR: 7.8 per season in St. Louis and only 2.9 in LA. On top of all this, since 2012, the Angels have only made one playoff appearance, a 2014 AL West Division title, and in that appearance, they were swept in the first round. I don't think this sudden decline was really expected by the MLB community, but it's clear now why Pujols's stats have worsened since the 2011 season and it's not his fault: age. His body is starting to slow down, but it started slowing down at a rate that the Angels probably never saw coming. So, in conclusion, although Pujols has still put up solid numbers, they aren't what we have long considered to be "Albert Pujols numbers," so the deal was not worth it.
The Angels aren't exactly known for their pitching. In 2016, LA's pitching staff had an ERA of 4.28, good for 21st in baseball. Their hitting wasn't too good last year either, but it's on the pitcher's mound where there is a real concern. They also only saved 29 games last year, which was 28th in the MLB last year. Imagine if instead of signing Pujols in 2011, they traded for a guy like Yoenis Cespedes and then signed him on a much cheaper and shorter deal and in this past offseason signed someone like Kenley Jansen to improve the bullpen.
I'm not saying that I hate Albert Pujols. In fact, he's one of my favorite players right now and I'm always rooting for him to put up great stats. But the bottom line is that he's not the same first baseman from ten years ago. The Angels' franchise would be in a much better place right now if they hadn't spent that much money on him. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."