Thursday, December 8, 2011

Angels Add Pujols, Wilson

The Los Angeles Angels endured a rough winter last year.  They missed out on Carl Crawford, even though California was his preferred destination, after Boston outbid them.  They traded for Vernon Wells, even though his contract has been deemed one of the worst in baseball (right up there with Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Howard, Barry Zito, Jayson Werth, and Alex Rodriguez), and paid him 26 million bucks for -0.3 bWAR and a .248 on base percentage.  In return for Wells they gave away Mike Napoli, their slugging catcher that manager Mike Scoscia kept on the bench far too often because of his defensive woes. Napoli got his revenge, though, because in a cruel twist of fate he was flipped to Texas where he helped lead the Rangers to another division title with his 30 home runs, 1.046 OPS and 5.5 WAR.  Meanwhile, Scioscia's boy Jeff Mathis hit all of .174 for the Halos and, like Wells, was worth -0.3 bWAR.

But in one fell swoop today, the Angels erased all of that pain and suffering in the blink of an eye. Albert Pujols wanted Alex Rodriguez money, and they gave it to him with a gargantuan 10 year, $254 million contract that ranks as the second biggest contract in the sport behind A-Rod's current one.  Phat Albert's wallet just got a lot fatter, and the deal includes a full no-trade clause as well, meaning he will probably play out the rest of his days in LA.  The Angels also locked up lefty C.J. Wilson for five years and $77 million, basically the same contract that John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received from the Red Sox and Yankees.   I consider the Wilson deal an eye for an eye regarding the Napoli debacle; that score has been settled.

It goes without saying that this is a huge day for the Halos, who might have just vaulted over the two-time defending AL Champs as the team to beat in the AL West.  Pujols adds an elite, middle of the order bat to what was a below average offense in 2011 and gives the club an offensive threat they haven't had since Vladimir Guerrero's heyday.  Adding Wilson to a rotation that already includes Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, and Ervin Santana gives them a Big Four that could be the AL equivalent of last year's Philadelphia quartet.  On paper, the Angels now have the best starting pitching in the Junior Circuit and possibly the majors.  Wilson also has the Mark Buehrle-to-the-Marlins-effect of providing a much needed lefty arm to an otherwise righthanded dominant staff.

But how will the duo fare in LA? Luckily for Pujols, the DH should help extend his career and keep him healthy as he enters his mid-to-late thirties over the next few seasons, but I would expect his statistics to take a slight dip.  He's not getting any younger, and playing half his games in Angel Stadium of Anaheim and many more in Oakland and Seattle won't help either.  He's also leaving behind a potent Redbird lineup, trading in valuable lineup protection from Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman for Wells and Torii Hunter.  His intentional walks declined the past two years, but they could see a spike in 2012.  And we don't know how he'll respond to the new surroundings, new league, and the pressure that comes with signing such an enormous contract.  The Machine should be better than he was last year, but I think his days of winning batting titles and threatening 50 home runs are probably behind him. I project a .310 average, 40 bombs and 115 RBI for the star slugger.

And then there's Wilson, who's pitched in the stifling heat of Texas for the entirety of his seven year career.  In his two full years as a starter there, he topped 200 innings each time and went 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA.  The 2011 All Star also finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting.  His numbers could look even better in 2012 after trading in half his starts in a hitter's haven for a more pitching friendly venue.  The Angels also have a great defense.  For the record, his career ERA in LA is 2.79, and I wouldn't be surprised if he posted a similar figure in 2012.

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