LOS ANGELES, August 21, 2013 — Albert Pujols is officially done for the season. The former MVP slugger will miss the rest of the 2013 season with a left foot injury that has been bothering him all year. Pujols has not played in a game since July 26.
Pujols did play in 99 games for the Angels before being sidelined for good, compiling a .258/.330/.437 slash line with 17 homeruns and 64 RBIs. Those are by no means terrible numbers, unless your name is Albert Pujols and you are making $16 million this season.
If you are a cup half full kind of Angels fan, that $16 million wasted on the year could be worse. If the injury occurred next season, the Angels would have wasted $23 million and even worse if it happened the following year when he is making even more, $24 million. The Angels had the genius idea to save money in the short term by back loading the contract so that Pujols’ salary increases for every year he gets older.
This type of contract might make sense for a 21-year old phenom named Albert Pujols, but for a 31-year old Albert Pujols, it was just ridiculous. The Angels needed only to look east to the Yankees and the soap opera that is unfolding in New York to take a peek at their own future.
Alex Rodriguez is facing a 211-game ban for PEDs and has not played more than 138 games in a season since 2007.
In the post steroid era, and take that phrase with whatever size grain of salt makes you comfortable, Pujols’ best days are behind him. He played and left them in St. Louis. The Angels are going to be paying increasingly more money each year to a player for returns that they will not only never fully see, but will actually see increasingly less of each year.
Pujols will be 34 when the 2014 season starts. Depending on with whom you speak, normal human males who are not injecting banned substances into their bodies generally begin their physical decline somewhere between the ages of 32 and 34. In the final year of his contract, Pujols will be 41 years old and making over $30 million.
Both Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have shown why teams should never give older players long contracts. Josh Hamilton at 32 wanted an eight to ten year deal over the winter, but the most he could find was five with the Angels. Another player on the horizon, however, will test during the off season whether or not teams have learned from the Yankees and Angels.
Robinson Cano is a free agent and the best second baseman in baseball. Cano will be 31 years old this October, a similar age to Rodriguez and Pujols when they signed their deals. He too will be looking for that 10-year behemoth of a deal. The logical destination for him to look is Los Angeles, not Los Angeles Anaheim, but Los Angeles proper.
Since being purchased by the Guggenheim group in 2012, the Dodgers have not been shy with their money. They inked Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to lucrative long term deals, signed the best pitcher on the market, Zack Greinke, during the winter and made trades for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford last season. The Dodgers will most likely give Clayton Kershaw a ten year deal or longer in the off season worth more than $300 million, which would justly be representative of him being the best pitcher in baseball.
The Dodgers have also not been quiet about their willingness to spend more if the right player comes around. Robinson Cano is the right player, but is a 10-year contract the right deal?
A 10-year deal for Cano could possibly cripple a normal franchise in five years. The Guggenheim group seems to be confident in its financial standing for the long term in the face of over $215 million in contracts. What is wrong with another $20 million more if it meant World Series titles for a city that has longed for another since 1988.
There are 24-year olds drinking in a bar somewhere in the vast swath of Los Angeles without the faintest idea of how it feels to see their baseball team win it all.
If Cano did sign a 10–year deal with Los Angeles and they did end up winning a World Series or even two or three, would the crippling effects of the latter half that contract be worth it? Unfortunately, all of the Dodgers’ money is unable to buy psychic abilities.
After stumbling miserably out of the gate to start the season, the Dodgers are in the midst of one of the best 50-game stretches in over 70 years. If they do not win the World Series this year, the season will be considered by many to be a failure, if for no other reason than the size of their payroll. Cano could realistically ride the coattails of a failed 2013 for the Dodgers to a heavy payday in Los Angeles.
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