Inside The Acquisition’s Stadiums: Albert Pujols

Pujols new look

Pujols may have gotten $254 Million, but he didn’t get $900 Trillion.

The Cardinal organization sold their souls their World Series rings for a first round compensation pick. And the Angels just bought themselves two World Series caliber players (Pujols/CJ Wilson) for a combined $330 Million. Hopefully they enjoy paying a 42-year old DH the remainder of a 10-year $254 Million contract to sit in a hospital bed waiting for a hip transplant. It’s not my job to judge but I think the Angels just made a $100 Million mistake. Pujols is a stud right now but I can’t imagine the Angels break even in 6 years for what they are paying him at that time. Not to mention the $1 Million per year the 10 years after that, the suites, and the numerous bonuses.

Lets take a look at the two teams involved in this huge off-season acquisition (3rd highest in history, only behind A-rod’s two previous deals):

  • What did the Angels buy?

The Angels just bought a team to try and reclaim the American League west of the Mississippi. Tired of missing the playoffs, the Angles paid big bucks to steal today’s best player from the Cardinals and then steal a division rival’s star starting pitcher, CJ Wilson (who will be covered in a later post). The 10-year $240 million deal is completely back loaded. Meaning, Pujols will make most of his money in the latter years of this contract. In fact, he is making $4 Million less in 2012 than he did in 2011. But he also worked out bonuses for reaching baseball milestones (3000 hits, 763 homeruns, etc) and winning awards (MVP, All-star selection, etc). There are other perks when he retires. This deal will be a great deal for the Angels for the next 4 season or so while Pujols is still raking with 35+ HR, 0.300+BA, and 100+RBI. But, I still think this goes down as one of the worst deals in MLB history. Simply for the fact that Pujols will be 42 when the deal expires and making $30 Million. That much cash for a DH who will be well past is prime is $28 Million too much. I foresee a $100 Million fallout in 6-years where someone picks up Pujols for cheap while the Angels are still paying him.

  • What to do when you have three 1B: Pujols/Trumbo/Morales

Unlike having three yearbook photos rejected, the Angles have three 1B that could start for most teams. And that translates to RBI’s for Pujols. Pujols will be the starting 1B and most likely be batting 3rd in front of Morales and Hunter giving him plenty of protection to see better pitches. I would only expect his HR, RBI, and BA to increase this season. It also means that Trumbo and Morales need to find new positions. Rumors are Trumbo will start at 3B, Morales will fill the DH role, and Bobby Abreu will be forced to the logjam of an outfield. With 5 players left on the roster fighting for an everyday position, two of the following Bourjos/Wells/Hunter/Abreu/Trout will be without a starting position with the Angels.

  • Meet Mark Trumbo, a new and very valuable multi-position player

Trumbo was a pleasant surprise in 2011 with 29HR and 87RBI after Kendry Morales was unable to play after his 2010 freak accident. Trumbo was almost my write-in for the Home Run Derby and now he finds himself in Group C for the 2012 Home Run Derby. He was the Angels 2011 starting 1B and presumably the 2012 before Pujols was signed. With nowhere to play, the Angels organization is committed to starting Trumbo at 3B this season to keep his bat in the lineup and Morales starting at DH. This basically means that Bobby Abreu’s bags are packed but doesn’t have a known destination. Trumbo will have 1B and 3B eligibility and should be on your radar as a valuable fantasy source. Plus, if he fails at 3B defensively, he may gain OF eligibility throughout the year. He should maintain similar stats to his 2011 season assuming he is an everyday player and he bats in the 7th spot of the order. I think he’s undervalued at a ranking around the 220-230 range.

Too Many Angels In The Outfield

  • Where does this leave Mike Trout

There are too many Angels in the Outfield in 2012. With Vernon Wells signed for $21 Million (one of the worst contracts in history) and Torii Hunter making $18 Million (and still producing), there really is only 1 “cheap” outfield position for the Angels. Peter Bourjous claims the last spot in CF simply because he can actually cover the vast area required by the CF. What this means is that the aging Bobby Abreu is homeless on the Angels lineup. And I’m not sure how the Angels deal him for a gain. Now we come to Mike Trout. He is a young stud prospect who is ranked as the #3 overall prospect in the MLB. This kid can flat out rake and run. He’s hit over 0.300 every season and has stolen over 30 bases the past 2 seasons in minor ball. He has potential to have a 20HR/30SB season when getting regular playing time. The problem is… the Angels have nowhere to play him. Either they have to bench $21 Million or find a way to off-load such a bad contract (refer to this article in 2017, Pujols will be the next Vernon Wells contract for the Angels). What this means to your fantasy team… monitor Mike Trout’s playing time and performance in spring training this season and the status of Vernon Wells’ playing time throughout the season. If there is any small rumor about Trout grabbing a starting spot in the outfield, pick Trout up and stash him. He is worth a bench spot. Or hope that Morales doesn’t bounce back. The Angels may have to put Wells at DH and Trout in the OF.

  • What happens to Berkman’s and Holliday’s values

What would Starsky be without Hutch? What would Sherlock be without Watson? They would be like Holliday and Berkman without Pujols… average. Seriously, Pujols made these two players better. Opposing teams had to pitch to these two due to the fear that Pujols created. With that fear removed, Holliday will be pitched around and opposing pitchers will take their chances with the aging ‘Big Puma’. Holliday won’t hit over 25HR and will collect less than 100RBI. While Berkman regresses back towards his 2010 numbers (I’ll guess 22HR and 85RBI). I hope Cardinal fans enjoy pitching duels because that’s about all they will be seeing in 2012.

  • The St Louis pitching staff just became more valuable

Losing the biggest bat in the Cardinals’ lineup has one benefit to the fantasy world… the Cardinals bullpen is going to be more valuable. With less offense, Cardinal games will be much closer leading to more save opportunities and holds (hopefully less marry-go-rounds in the later innings with La Russa gone as well). So keep an eye on the closer status of the Cardinals, right now it’s Chris Motte. On the opposite end of the pitching staff, the Cardinal starters just became more valuable to the Cardinals, but not to fantasy owners. If the Cardinals are going to contend in 2012, it all comes down to their starting pitching (Carpenter/Wainwright/Lohse/Garcia/Westbrook). Carpenter (as much as I hate him) will put up his typical polished numbers. Wainwright has a lot to prove coming off of Tommy John, but I would take a flyer on him in any fantasy league. Lohse was great in the regular season, but wore down in the postseason and I don’t see him having a sub-4.00 ERA this year. Garcia could only pitch at home (2.55 ERA at home, 4.61 ERA on the road) and I see his home numbers looking more like his road in 2012. And Westbrook isn’t anything special. With less offense behind them, I see all of the Cardinals’ starters decreasing in Wins and with the pressure on their shoulders in close games, their ERA and WHIP will also increase. I would only trust Carpenter and Wainwright on my fantasy teams.

  • Does St Louis have a shot at defending their 2011 title?

With no replacement to Pujols in the lineup, the St Louis Cardinals will be depending on their pitching staff in 2012. And to be honest, the starting rotation doesn’t really wow me. Unless they sign Roy Oswalt, the starting rotation has 2 mediocre pitchers on the back and their ace is coming off Tommy John. If Wainwright is rusty or doesn’t return back to his pre-surgery form, the Cardinals will be in a large world of hurt. Not to mention losing probably one of the best skippers of all-time (Tony La Russa) and one of the best pitching coaches in the league today (Dave Duncan), the Cardinals will be chasing at least the revamped Cincinnati Reds for most of the season.

In Summary, what does this mean to you:
– Pujols numbers will be better than last season, go get him.
– Trumbo gains fantasy value by gaining 3B and possibly OF eligibility. Undervalued at rank 220+.
– Morales still holds 1B eligibility and could rake in the clean-up spot if healthy.
– Trout needs an injury or a $21 Million bench spot to find playing time in 2012.
– Angels pitchers will achieve more wins with more offensive help.
– Cardinals offense will struggle resulting to less wins by Cardinals pitching.
– Cardinal relievers will have more save opportunities than 2011.
– Berkman will produce more like his 2010 stats and not his 2011 stats.
– Holliday will see an increase in walks and be pitched around.
– Angels will regret the 10 year deal in 5 to 6 years.

Stay tuned for the next guest of Inside the Acquisition’s Stadiums: Jose Reyes

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