The Angels made a huge splash today by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year $250 million contract. What does this all mean?
First off, it means the Angels are instantly the favorites to win the AL West, and probably the American League. With CJ Wilson also going from Texas to Anaheim, I believe the Rangers are going to take a step back this year. They are also probably still suffering emotionally from losing the World Series in the excruciatingly painful fashion. I personally like the Angels roster better than the Red Sox or Yankees right now.
It means the Angels have a legitimate superstar, something they haven't had since Reggie Jackson. Pujols is a player whose brand could be more powerful than any other LA athlete with the exception of Kobe Bryant. He is the best player in baseball, and probably has been for the past ten years. He might be the best player to play for the Dodgers or Angels since Sandy Koufax. It would help if he showed more personality though.
It means the Angels are probably going to have an albatross on their payroll beginning in 4-5 years. Pujols will be 32 when he starts the season, but there's always been speculation that he's 2-3 years older than his listed age. If he's actually 35, then the Angels will be on the hook for $25 million a year for a guy who is well into his 40s. Yes, he can play DH in the American League, but why would you ever want to spend $25 million a year on a DH? This is a deal that will reap considerable short-term gains at the expense of the long-term.
It means that the Angels could very well be LA's team next year. The new Dodgers owner will probably be greeted as a hero, but he won't be able to do anything substantial until after the 2012 season. I believe the Lakers have begun a serious decline and I don't see them being a title team. With a big name superstar like Pujols, the Angels may get the most media attention of any LA team, something that hasn't ever happened outside of their 2002 World Series run.
It means that new GM Jerry DiPoto will be fawned over by the LA media. He's going to be praised for his bold moves, for his risk taking, for his ability to make a move. He might also be bashed in five years, once Pujols starts to decline.
It means that Arte Moreno will continue to receive praise for spending money and "doing what it takes to win." I'm surprised the Angels had the money to take on Pujols after spending a fortune on the ill-fated Vernon Wells deal. And they overspent for CJ Wilson at $77 million on five years, but I actually believe he will perform.
It means the Angels will have to be creative to improve their bullpen. I was surprised that the Angels didn't make a bigger play for Heath Bell this offseason. If it wasn't for their bullpen last season, the Angels probably would have made the playoffs. I can't imagine they have much cash to spend on relievers, so they'll have to find good players off the scrap heap. Other teams have done it, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.
It means the Angels are empowered to trade Mark Trumbo and/or Kendrys Morales for some useful pieces. They're stuck with Bob Abreu at $9 million this year, reducing the opportunities for either player to DH. I'd expect Trumbo to get moved for more pitching help or for a third baseman. Expect Morales to come along slowly, DH a little, and maybe get dealt next year once he shows he can be healthy.
It means that Vernon Wells can bat in front of Pujols, see better pitches, and potentially have a bounce back season. Eventually though, the Angels will have to think about trading Wells, eating some of his salary, and then make room for Mike Trout. There has been talk that they'd trade Trout for immediate help, but with a high payroll, they will need the all contributions for a low salaried guy like Trout that they can get.
It means that Pujols will hit his 500th home run as an Angel. And probably his 600th home run too. It's not even impossible to think he'll be able to pass Barry Bonds' 762 home runs as Angel (although Alex Rodriguez might also pass Bonds). But this also means that this signing will be disastrous if it's discovered that Pujols used steroids.
If I were the Angels, then I probably wouldn't have made this deal. I think they already had a contending team that could have made a run at the World Series with some tweaking. This contract will eventually feel like a major burden. But I cannot deny the short-term impact this deal has, and the Angels have made a splash like they've never made before. This is bigger than Vlad Guerrero. It's bigger than Reggie Jackson. It will get a ton of attention. But it's a 10-year deal that will probably only bear fruit for 3-4 years.