CHICAGO, July 29, 2013 — Albert Pujols has been placed on the disabled list effective July 28, with a tear in his left foot. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia has gone on the record stating that he may miss “a significant amount of time”. There is speculation that this trip to the DL may in fact be the end of Pujols’ season.
If his season is indeed over, he will end the year with a slash line of .258/.330/.437, 17 home runs, and a WAR of 1.4, which would be by far the worst season of Pujols’ career. Last year, his first with the Angels, was his previous low WAR when he had 5.0.
The Angels signed Pujols after the 2011 season to a ten-year $240 million contract, of which he is still owed $192 million after this year. The annual salary continues to escalate each year, maxing out in 2021 when the Angels will pay a 41 year-old Albert Pujols $30 million dollars. If not for Alex Rodriguez and the ongoing Biogenesis news, the Pujols contract might be considered the worst contract in baseball already.
For a baseball team to break even on a contract, they typically want to extract 1 WAR for every five million dollars of the deal. This number is not stagnant and will likely increase as teams continue to lock up young players before they are able to hit free agency. When considering the Pujols contract then, even accounting for inflation and using seven million per 1 WAR over the life of the contract, the Angels will need 34.28 WAR to make the contract worthwhile. To date Pujols has produced 6.4 leaving 27.88 WAR for the Angels to come out ahead.
Given Pujols’ age, 33, he is likely to continue to decline throughout the life of the contract we can expect about .5 WAR less each year as he ages. To look at this, assume that Pujols’ injury has been hampering him and he is able to bounce back at age 34 and reproduce his results from last year of 5.0 WAR. Factoring in .5 WAR decline for the life of the contract provides 26 WAR over the remaining eight years of the contract. Optimistically, the Angels may almost break even on this deal.
This puts the Angels in a bad spot despite Arte Moreno’s deep pockets, as their division rivals all seem to have clear plans to compete. The Texas Rangers, who signed an $80 million dollar per year TV deal in 2010, have made the World Series twice in the last three years. The Oakland A’s, who could potentially move to a more profitable market, made the playoffs last year and currently lead the division.
The Mariners continue to graduate prospects to their big club with mixed results. Finally, the Astros seem to be ahead of their rebuild schedule with a strong farm system and are currently in line to add the number one pick in the 2014 draft as well.
It will be interesting to see how the Angels address their team in the offseason, whether they continue to attempt to spend their way out of the hole their past spending has caused or if they look to change their strategy.
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