Thursday, December 08, 2011

A great day to be a fan of the Los Angeles Angels (or was it?)

The Los Angeles Angels spent more than $331.5 million in a matter of hours following the signing of Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract worth a reported $254 million with a five-year $77.5 million contract with C.J. Wilson.

The Pujols contract is the second biggest contract in baseball history topped only by Alex Rodriguez’s ten-year $275 million agreement. Angels’ owner Arte Moreno agreed to the two contracts because he had the money and it was good business.

“I think it's a tribute to the aggressive nature, competitive nature and quality of our ownership with the Angels. We're in a unique position, as it pertains to our market, our location and the attractive nature of our club. I think many players around baseball desire to come to play for the Angels and this was a really good fit for our franchise and I believe it's an excellent fit for the players we're talking about here. We're talking about an iconic offensive player in his generation, to be sure. And we're talking about an ace‑type starting pitcher, who's pitched on back‑to‑back American League championship clubs.

“And we feel like the two of them, in addition to what we have in place with the Angels, gives us a very unique opportunity once we are secured and ready to move forward.” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto commented.
Earlier this week the Marlins offered Pujols a ten-year contact but refused to offer Pujols a no-trade clause. The St. Louis Cardinals stopped their bidding for Pujols somewhere around ten-years and $210 million. If the Cardinals were really interested in signing Pujols they had ample opportunity before he became a free agent.

Before the start of the Winter Meetings, the Los Angeles Times reported the Angels might have as much as $20 million to spend on free agents, no where near the $331.5 million the Angels spent Thursday morning.

“I think our guys who have been with me on a daily or weekly basis, we have talked about so many different players, so many different opportunities or avenues, projected so many different potential rosters based on the dollars that we were allocating toward payroll in 2012 and beyond. And as you alluded to, I have discussed every one of the options with Arte Moreno, with Mike Scioscia, with our group, our front office group. And once we had the opportunity to move on Albert Pujols it became ‑‑ quite frankly, I won't limit it to Albert Pujols because we had another very large signing today or agreement today. And this is obviously the moment where we have thrown our hat in the ring and said this is the team we wanted to put together.

“I think Arte is particularly excited about where we sit today. And he made his decision, as you said, he's writing the check. But this is something that we provided where a number of different options and now we'll choose the opportunity that we think makes the most sense for the Angels.

“We feel like we're an open window right now. With Weaver and heron and Santana, now having the potential of waking up in 48 hours, 72 hours, with this type of roster is pretty enticing and exciting. We feel like we have a very good nucleus. And as I said before, you have to play 162 games to get beyond that and we feel very confident about what we've accomplished here in Dallas.” Jerry Dipoto said.

The two signings made perfect sense for the Angels for a number of very good reasons:

• The Angels current local television agreement with Fox Sports expires at the end of the 2015 season. The agreement pays the Angels $50 million a year. Comcast is set to launch a Los Angeles regional cable sports network. The Dodgers will end up on one network, the Angels on the other, but both franchises will be very rich with two networks vying for their rights.
• At more than $50 million annually the Angels are playing with other people’s money when it comes to reaching agreements with spending more than $331 million on the last morning of the Baseball Winter Meetings.
• Arte Moreno had to take advantage of the current state of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt has been forced to sell the Dodgers. The sale of the Dodgers will take months to complete. The Dodgers days of turmoil and inaction provided Moreno a window to move his franchise ahead of the Dodgers in brand recognition.

“Arte Moreno is as competitive an owner and as genuine a person as there is in the game. And this is, in large part, a tribute to him. I don't want to under sell the involvement of C.J. Wilson and Albert Puhols and Danny Lozano and Bob Garber, but we all know this happens with this push, this domino effect is kicked into gear by Arte Moreno. And this is a pretty unique opportunity. Arte has made it very clear, he wants to win championships, he wants to win rings. And we think this is a way to move toward that goal. We still have to play 162 of them, but we feel like we're better today than we were yesterday.” Dipoto said.

Ten year no trade contracts can become an albatross for the team reaching the agreement. Pujols will likely be the Angels first baseman for the 2012 season and for at least four or five seasons after the 2012 season.

A great hitter, Pujols could become the Angels designated hitter at the end of the contract. Still at 31 and statistics indicating that his career has begun its inevitable decline, are the Angels concerned Albert Pujols has indeed reached his peak as a baseball player?

“I don't necessarily see it as a clear decline. I see Albert Pujols as the most consistent offensive player of his generation. And if a decline still places you in the top five MVPs in the League, and we understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort, Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks. And if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I don't think we've seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldn't be sitting here today.”

Before the Albert Pujols did or didn’t break Arte Moreno’s bank Thursday morning, there have been four ten-year MLB player contracts:

Alex Rodriguez Yankees 2008 10 years, $275 million
Alex Rodriguez Rangers 2001 10 years, $252 million*
Derek Jeter Yankees 2001 10 years, $189 million
Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 2011 10 years, $157.75 million

There will be a great deal of pressure on Albert Pujols to deliver the ‘ring’ Angels general manager talked about after he signed Pujols. Pujols has been a part of two World Series teams in St. Louis and did hit three homes runs in game three of the 2011 World Series. He is a three time National League MVP and a nine-time All-Star.

In 2008 the 30 MLB managers called Pujols the most feared hitter in baseball, but that was in 2008. The Angels have to win a World Series or two in the next three or four years or it’s reasonable to assume Angels fans, the media and the Angels will be very upset with Albert Pujols.

Alex Rodriguez has begun to feel those pressures in New York; Derek Jeter has delivered what was expected of his talents in New York.

Troy Tulowitzki is in the second year of his ten year contract and his contract isn’t the second biggest contract in baseball history.

The bottom line for Albert Pujols he had better deliver for the Angels and he had better deliver early. Angels owner Arte Moreno is counting on Albert for that and a great deal more.

On the surface Thursday appears to have been a great deal for fans of the Los Angeles Angels. A few years from now, December 8, 2011 may be one of the worst days in franchise history. Only time will tell.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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