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December 8, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Winter Meeting Winners

by R.J. Anderson

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Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed 1B-R Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract worth between $250 and $260 million. [12/8]
Signed P-L C.J. Wilson to a five-year contract worth $77.5 million. [12/8]

The Marlins may have stolen headlines entering and during the winter meetings, but the Angels stole the show as they left Dallas by inking the best positional player and pitcher available on the market.

Pujols is the best player alive. Listing his accolades is banal. He is good. You know it, he knows it, the Angels know it, the Cardinals know it, and his accountant darn well knows it. Everyone knows it. You know the player is special when his career OPS low-water mark is 906 (good for an adjusted-OPS of 150). Since 2009, Pujols has batted .313/.409/.598 with an average of 42 home runs and with 81 more walks than strikeouts. Then there’s Pujols’s glove. If only he did not own this universe with his bat, more people would recognize how good he is defensively, too.

Of course, with Pujols’s new deal, he could purchase another galaxy for conquering if he so chooses. The worst-case scenario is that Pujols just signed the third-largest contract in baseball history. Otherwise, if the value exceeds $252 million, Pujols now has the second-largest contract as it pertains to total dollars. Only Alex Rodriguez has Pujols beat, and Rodriguez benefitted from the New York market.

Pujols’s consistency is almost as admirable as his sheer production. Not once has he recorded fewer than five Wins Above Replacement Player in his career. Pujols is entering the decline phase of his career, and that streak could fall, but he isn’t your average player, as only Mickey Mantle accumulated more WARP through his age 31 season. Here is how Mantle and nine other players with the highest WARP scores through age 31 fared thereafter:


WARP Through Age 31

WARP After Age 31

Mickey Mantle



Willie Mays



Hank Aaron



Frank Robinson



Rickey Henderson



Eddie Mathews



Barry Bonds



Mike Schmidt



Joe Morgan



Al Kaline



It isn’t a certainty, but with only Bonds producing more post-31 WARP than pre-31 WARP, you have to think the odds are stacked heavily against Pujols outdoing his career-to-date production over his remaining seasons. Should Pujols embark on a Mays or Aaron-like career arc from here on out, the Angels are going to get their money’s worth and then some. Conversely, if Pujols fades quickly, for whatever reason, the Angels will experience the league’s greatest albatross. Luckily, their encounter with Vernon Wells has prepared them for this.

The odds of Pujols collapsing are low, but make no mistake that this is a risk—even if you dismiss the accusations of falsified age out of hand. A lot of years and a lot of money means a lot can go wrong. But this is the cost of doing business. With a potential new television deal in hand and an aggressive owner at the top, the Angels can afford to gamble on the league’s finest batter.

By the same token, the Angels can afford chancing it with Wilson as well. The debonair southpaw has a short but solid career in the rotation—albeit one blemished by postseason struggles. It’s an age-old debate: should October troubles poison the well? To examine that topic, let’s venture on a thought experiment. First, take in Wilson’s stats as a starter in the regular season, postseason, and overall:

















Now, let’s say you think the postseason should carry more weight. How much more weight? For the sake of the argument, how about we double everything from the postseason while leaving the regular season numbers alone. This is not the most sound or scientific approach, but it isn’t meant to be. This is just a junk stat to show how overblown the concerns about Wilson’s Octobers seem to be:




Adjusted Total



Pitchers with similar earned run averages and strikeout-to-walk ratios to Wilson’s adjusted since 2009 include Ricky Romero (3.60, 2.05), Jair Jurrjens (3.20, 2.04), Jhoulys Chacin (3.52, 1.89), and Clay Buchholz (3.10, 1.85). Those pitchers are younger and not being paid like Wilson, but then again, their worst 50-inning stints are not being magnified for consumption, either.

With that written, there are some legitimate concerns about Wilson. No starting pitcher with 100-plus innings has faced weaker competition over the last two seasons than Wilson. He will remain in the American League West, so the culture shock should be spared, but instead of facing the Angels, he will face the Rangers. Eventually, the Astros will come into the picture and help Wilson out, too.

Health is another question mark with Wilson. His most serious injuries—Tommy John surgery and elbow surgery to remove bone spurs, in 2003 and 2008 respectively—are behind him, but he is still fresh to the rotation, and that has to be somewhat worrisome. The same can be said about the Rangers’ willingness to let Wilson walk without obstacle. It probably speaks to the Rangers’ unwillingness to engage pitchers in long-term deals, but maybe they have concerns about his long-term durability. Then again, they also let Cliff Lee walk, and he looked no worse for the wear. For now, the Angels have effectively taken a three-plus WARP pitcher from the Rangers.

The Rangers and the Angels seem to be on a collision course for the division title, and the loser could find themselves in the playoffs via one of the two Wild Card spots. Expect the Angels to be the trendy pick—and after adding potentially nine-plus WARP today, why wouldn’t they be?—but a lot can still change. The Rangers are reportedly interested in trading for Matt Garza and might add a new first baseman at some point. Meanwhile, the Angels have three first basemen (including Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales) and will have to figure out who their number five starter is behind Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Wilson.

What a first offseason for Jerry Dipoto. Spring is a little ways away, but Dipoto has already delivered Pujols, Wilson, Chris Iannetta, and LaTroy Hawkins while excommunicating Jeff Mathis.

Tony Reagins talked about making a big splash last offseason before failing to produce Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, or anyone of note. Reagins may no longer be with the Angels, but the big splashes are there now. Boy, are they ever.

Special thanks to Bradley Ankrom for querying wizardry.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

39 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Richard Bergstrom

Intereting tidbit having to do with the Angels getting more money for their TV rights... and I love the Manny comparison.

"The Los Angeles Times reported in October that the Angels were close to negotiating an extension of their current TV deal with Fox, one that already stood to pay them more than the $80 million per year that Fox agreed to pay the Texas Rangers last year. While you wouldn't have assumed the Angels would get quite what the Dodgers could count on, the marquee value of Pujols ‚Äď the equivalent of signing a saner, younger Manny Ramirez ‚Äď will certainly help."


Dec 08, 2011 10:20 AM
rating: 0

Why not mention what Albert Pujols' career WARP is? Having to search on a separate page for the information is annoying...

FYI, it's either 91.0 Standard or 87.9 Advanced, according to the BP player page.

Dec 08, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 6
Richard Bergstrom

Until Colin revises WARP, then it'll be a third number.

Dec 08, 2011 12:14 PM
rating: 1

I don't think it's right to say that the Rangers "let" Cliff Lee walk. They were all in on him, he just didn't accept their offer.

Dec 08, 2011 10:32 AM
rating: 2

This chart is pretty darn useful. I think the halos's are pretty happy with anything rivaling 35+warp from pujols at 5-6 million a warp. 7/10 of these guys beat that level. The floor for this deal is pretty high, and so is the upside

Consider these three things 1.) exponential value per dollars routinely given. Note that the marlins outbid by 30 million, and the yankees red sox phillies mets and dodgers would have done the same if they didn't have extenuating circumstances. 2.) Milestone and star power value 3.) the opportunity to take the mantle of interest from the dodgers given their ownership woes.

only a 30% chance he underperforms 35 warp and at least a 30% chance he crushes 60+ warp? What a deal, what a steal.

Dec 08, 2011 11:03 AM
rating: 1

Interesting thought that non-baseball, business interests played a key role in this deal. It makes sense Moreno would take advantage of the Dodgers' problems by making a splash like this - but that's the only part of it that makes sense to me. The number of mega-contracts like this that pay off for ownership is very, very small. I don't believe Pujols will faceplant, but I dodn't see how he delivers anywhere near $250m in value over the next 10 years.

Dec 08, 2011 12:25 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

Well, it also might depend on what the going rate for a player is ten years from now. Also, from a PR aspect, the Angels bought a Hall of Famer. That's got to be worth something.

Dec 08, 2011 12:29 PM
rating: 1
Jay Taylor

Over the last ten years there has been about 3.75% inflation for player salaries, so if we assume the same for the next ten years, then Pujols will still need to be a 3.5 win player in his age 40 and 41 seasons. Only on position player has ever been worth 3.5 bWAR twice after the age of 40, and that was Carlton Fisk.

Dec 08, 2011 14:31 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

What about Barry Bonds? (3.7 in 2006 and 3.6 in 2007)

Pujols might not be a 3.5 WAR player when he's 41, but there's a decent chance he'll have at least one year where he surpasses his contract value. And I'm sure if he brings a boost in attendance or a World Series trophy, the Angels will think he's worth it.

Dec 08, 2011 16:20 PM
rating: 0
Jay Taylor

I was talking about baseball-reference WAR, not WARP. It's too hard to sort WARP to find what I was looking for.

I'm sure there will be a year or two where Pujols surpasses his contract value if you figure $5 million per win, but my biggest issue is that the average full time first baseman is worth 3 wins. So if for seven or eight of the years Pujols is only worth one to two wins over average, wouldn't that $25 million per year been better spent spread out? Heck, Trumbo was worth almost three wins last year.

All that being said, I actually like Pujols to the Angels for $250 better then I would have liked him to the Cardinals for $220. At least with the DH the Angels will have some roster flexibility at the end of the contract, and I think Pujols will be able to play more games over the life of the contract. The Cardinals would have most likely been stuck with a below average first baseman for four or five years that was only playing 140 games a year.

Dec 08, 2011 16:57 PM
rating: 0

It's worth noting that the performance of those players has zero relevance to Pujols trajectory.

Dec 08, 2011 15:55 PM
rating: 0

I wouldn't go that far. Pujols is such an historically unique talent that it is probably not straightforward to say what _does_ have relevance to his trajectory.

Dec 08, 2011 16:21 PM
rating: 2

Also nice to mention last years near misses. That had to provide some real impetus this time. I also agree that this Pujols contract actually looks kind of affordable.

Dec 08, 2011 11:39 AM
rating: 0

We all had to figure that eventually Arte Moreno was going to get his guy - but WOW - what a shocker.

Look out Texas.

Dec 08, 2011 11:42 AM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

Looks more impressive (and better value) than the Marlins shopping spree.

Dec 08, 2011 12:52 PM
rating: 2
Richard Bergstrom

I think the Wilson piece is pretty neat since he can counter Josh Hamilton and Fielder if the Rangers sign him.

Dec 08, 2011 12:15 PM
rating: 0
Drew Miller

Do we assume that Pujols 2011 was a fluke?

Dec 08, 2011 12:22 PM
rating: 0

I don't think so. Cursory examination of Pujols' BP player card reveals that almost every measure of Pujol's production has declined each year for the last three years. (Figures listed 2008/2009/2010/2011)

BA: 357/327/312/299
SP: 653/658/596/541
OP: 462/433/414/366
TAV: 368/361/333/312

Even his defense appears to be fading:

FRAA: 19.8/26.0/14.1/13.5

I think the Cardinals may be the true winners here.

The Yankees can live with an albatross of $200MM + magnitude. Not sure the Angels can.

Dec 08, 2011 12:49 PM
rating: 8
Richard Bergstrom

Except those fading numbers, even from the defensive side, are still star level production.

Dec 08, 2011 12:58 PM
rating: 0

Star? Yes.

$25MM/year star? I don't think so.

Dec 08, 2011 13:11 PM
rating: 0

Who else are they gonna get? Fielder for a bit less? No guarantee you'll win that bid and save any substantial chunk of money. It's not like they had the opportunity to spend half as much on 75% of the production.

Deals don't exist in a vacuum, so though he will almost certainly be overpaid by the final 5 years, that doesn't mean the deal wasn't the right move.

Dec 08, 2011 15:59 PM
rating: 1
Richard Bergstrom

It's hard to say what star level production would be ten years from now, or how much people would pay for stars ten years from now. That being said, I remember people thinking we'd see a $300 million contract shortly after A-Rod signed his Rangers deal.

Dec 08, 2011 16:22 PM
rating: 0
Drew Miller

Not to mention that he won't be anywhere near those numbers in five or six years.

Dec 08, 2011 14:19 PM
rating: 1

It is tempting to speculate that Pujols' VERY subpar April/May 2011, which dragged down his entire 2011 line, was due at least in part to the contract wrangle that was still going on when spring training started. We may call him "The Machine," but he's still human, and subject to human emotions. Remove those two months and his 2011 looks typically Pujolsian.

This year, the contract wrangle got sorted out long before spring training started, so it should have nothing to do with his performance. If he gets off to a slow start in 2012, concerns about a decline may be in order. If not ... well, there's a reason he's become a meme.

Dec 08, 2011 13:31 PM
rating: 0
Pat Folz

Also, I think the decline in his slugging might have been masked by an abnormally high (for him) HR/2B ratio in 2011. He's usually a bit under 1.0, last year he was 1.28, second-highest of his career. His XBH/H was a career low.

Dec 08, 2011 22:34 PM
rating: 0

ah, bill, by that logic you must also discount the rest of his season as predictive, because that was when he was looking forward to free agency. he won't be looking forward to free agency for the last 4 months of each season going forward.

Dec 08, 2011 14:48 PM
rating: 1

"Luckily, their encounter with Vernon Wells has prepared them for this."

I've read a lot of funny stuff at BP over the years. This is in the running (and far too true).

Dec 08, 2011 15:47 PM
rating: 4

Barry Bonds is still alive....

Dec 08, 2011 15:54 PM
rating: 1

What's your point? So is every other player on that chart other than Mantle and Mathews. I do wonder why Alex Rodriguez isn't on there, though, it being a chart of players with the highest WARP through their age-31 season and all...

Dec 08, 2011 16:46 PM
rating: 0

His point is that Albert Pujols is not the best player alive. Even if you want to ding Bonds, there's still the little matter of Mr. Mays.

Dec 08, 2011 18:05 PM
rating: 3
Richard Bergstrom

Silly stupid rhetorical question, but if Morales heals and Trumbo improves, wouldn't it be a bit neat if the Angels played Albert at third base for a year or two?

Dec 08, 2011 16:23 PM
rating: 0
Randy Brown

I can't wait for the press conference. "I prayed on it, and I decided to leave the only team I've ever played for fresh off a World Series title. It wasn't for the extra $40 million. I don't really care about the $40 million. It was because God told me to."

Dec 08, 2011 17:23 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

With all the misinformation, it's still not really clear what the Cardinals offered him.

Dec 08, 2011 21:31 PM
rating: 0
John Douglass

"Pujols is entering the decline phase of his career..."

Was this preemptively written in 2009, like a New York Times obituary for a famous person?

Dec 08, 2011 17:37 PM
rating: -2

I still wonder why no GM ever proposes a curved payment schedule for deals such as this one. Load it up front and decline through the decline phase of performance. The $ impact on his lifestyle would be non-existent but you could allow for a trade clause to be implanted in say the final 3-4 years when the yearly base has been reduced to a more manageable amount. If he is succeeding beyond wildest dreams then no trade ever happens. If he slides he may be more marketable and want to find another landing area too. Curious what you all think.

Dec 08, 2011 20:03 PM
rating: 0

Because money spent 8 years from now costs less than money spent now.
Also, it enables the GM to have more money to use to buy other players to create the kind of early success which could keep him employed to see the last few years of said contract.
Not to mention the possibility of The Rapture effectively voiding the last few years of the contract.
See - lots of reasons.

Dec 08, 2011 22:03 PM
rating: 1
Pat Folz

ARod has a contract like that I believe, perhaps a few others. Anyways, Goldstein mentioned in the podcast that the basic calculus for a big deal like this from the GM point of view is "if it works and we win, no one cares about the $$$, and if it doesn't work I won't have a job so it's someone else's problem," and there's also the economic reason: front loading maximizes the net present value of the contract, which teams don't want.

Basically, $25M now > $25M in 2018, so $35M now >> $15M in 2018, because 1)average player salaries are expected to rise, 2)team revenue is expected to rise, 3)money saved on that player now could be spent on an additional player now in order to increase the value of the franchise (i.e. win). So it's better to put off paying much of the money (based on expected inflation rate) til the future, because a fixed dollar amount is worth "less" then than it is now.

For what it's worth (nothing), I think this kind of thinking is overapplied, or at least naively applied, in much of modern economics/business practices, including baseball. But that's the way they think.

Dec 08, 2011 22:17 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

My understanding is that players want contracts that are backloaded, especially with a no-trade clause, because it makes it harder for them to be traded/released near the end of the deal when their skills are diminished.

Dec 09, 2011 07:47 AM
rating: 0
Pat Folz

I'd think they'd want them front-loaded. Maximizes their NPV, they could invest more earlier and come out way ahead.

Dec 10, 2011 19:07 PM
rating: 0
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