The signing of Albert Pujols has come to pass. Yesterday, Pujols signed an incredible 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The contract, which includes a full no-trade clause throughout its duration, is also possibly rumored to be worth $280 million or so with incentives.
One of the best hitters in baseball history and arguably the best right-handed hitter of all time, Pujols has left his team of 11 years, the St. Louis Cardinals, to sign with the Angels. The biggest surprise really isn't the team he signed with, but rather the amount he earned and the inclusion of the no-trade clause.
Pujols' previous offers seemed to hover around the $200-220 million range, until yesterday when the Angels made themselves known and signed The Machine. In addition, the Angels signed the best starting pitcher available on the free-agent market, C.J. Wilson, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal yesterday, spending $331.5 million on two players in one day.
The signings of the two, along with the $3 million deal of reliever LaTroy Hawkins, brings the Angels' offseason spending amount to $334.5 million, the third-highest amount of money spent in an offseason by a team all-time, and the highest by a team not named the New York Yankees.
Despite higher offers from the Miami Marlins, who have already signed Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle to contracts totaling $191 million, both Pujols and Wilson decided to sign with teams who offered a no-trade clause in Pujols' case, and was closer to home for Wilson.
With the signings of these two players, the Angels are being hailed as the team to beat in the AL and are also considered early World Series favorites by some. With a starting rotation that consists of aces Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, along with Wilson and Ervin Santana, the Angels' pitching staff and their newly-boosted offense should prove to be among the best in the majors next season should everything go according to plan.
So...you're probably wondering where Jimmy Rollins fits into all this. You're thinking that the above information has nothing to do with Rollins or the Phillies, and you're also thinking that there's no point in reading further. Or maybe you're not thinking any of that. I won't put words in your mouth, but Rollins is more significant than ever now that Pujols signed.
But you might be wondering why Pujols and Rollins have any sort of connection. The answer is two words: Dan Lozano. Lozano is the agent for both Pujols and Rollins, and now that Pujols has signed, Rollins is his best client left who has not yet signed.
Although there have been indications that the Phillies and Rollins were close to reaching an agreement, the two sides have yet to do so, meaning that Rollins is still fair game for any team who chooses to offer him a contract. However, the Milwaukee Brewers, who were thought to be the Phillies' biggest opponent in signing Rollins, have signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to fill their need on the left side of the diamond. Even though the Brewers are still in on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, their shortstop hole has been filled and they are out of the running for Rollins.
This would theoretically leave the Phillies as the only remaining team in the Rollins sweepstakes. Yet there is one more team who could enter the mix: the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals, who have a huge mound of money sitting around with Pujols not returning, can still afford to sign a different star player. Whether the Cards decide to do the Prince Fielder route or go after Rollins, the point is that the Cardinals have money they can spend money on a high-profile free agent if they so choose.
Due to the fact that the Cardinals also have an impending free-agent shortstop in Rafael Furcal, they could either aim to re-sign Furcal or pursue Rollins. The Cardinals have dealt quite a bit with Lozano in the past with Pujols, and as a complimentary gesture, he could arrange a Rollins-to-St. Louis deal if the years and price are right.
Either way, the Cardinals could prove to be stiff competition against the Phillies for Rollins' services. Even if they decide not to pursue him, they could drive his price and demands up at the hands of Lozano. While it wouldn't be the most moral thing to do, shadier dealings have occurred in the past.
As of right now, the Phillies are still the favorites to land Rollins. But if the Cardinals decide that their need for a shortstop is important enough, then they could go after J-Roll, whether as a ploy against the Phillies or in a sincere attempt to sign him. Now that Rollins is one of the top three remaining free agents, talks should heat up between him and potential suitors within the next few days, and the answers to when and where he'll sign a contract could become known very soon.