Albert Pujols to LA Angels: Why Chicago Cubs Needed To Swoop in on Him
Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last week for a 10-year deal that, with incentives, could jump to a total of $280 million. Pujols is a superstar, but was he worth that much?
On the field, most likely not. Recent history has proven that big contracts don't always live up to expected production. Both players and fans establish unrealistic expectations with deals of this magnitude. Last week I wrote about how Pujols wasn't the right fit for the Chicago Cubs.
Upon further reflection, Chicago should've made a more inspired run at the free agent, and here's 10 reasons why.
World Series Experience
With two rings in his possession, Albert Pujols has the postseason experience that Chicago could've used, especially in 2012. The increasing likelihood of the Cubs having a young roster would've benefited from Pujols being an elder statesman in the locker room, and helped breed confidence in the future of the ballclub.
St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols playing for the Chicago Cubs would've taken the rivalry to another level. Just imagining the atmosphere at Busch Stadium upon Pujols' return is mind-blowing.
Cardinal fans were calling him a traitor for going to LA instead of returning to St. Louis; imagine what they'd be calling him had he come to the Friendly Confines.
Busch Stadium, on average, gives up 1.6 home runs a game, with a total of 130 during the 2011 regular season. Wrigley Field gave up 154 in 2011, for an average of 1.9.
With Pujols' already-prestigious power numbers at a healthy level, where for the past 10 years he's averaged 40 home runs and 120 RBI, 81 games at Wrigley would make Pujols even more of a dangerous hitter.
If the wind was blowing out for even half of those home games, the home run record would fall quicker than anticipated.
Advanced statistics are what players are judged by these days, and for Albert Pujols, those numbers got him paid. Namely, his contact percentage.
To say the 2011 Cubs were offensively anemic would be an understatement. Simply put, they didn't get on base, and when they did, it was a struggle to get runs on the board.
In 2011, Pujols had a contact percentage of 86 percent. This was nearly six points higher than the league average, and is a testament to not only Pujols' hand-eye coordination, but also his ability to put a ball in play, something the 2012 Cubs could've used.
Wins Above Replacement
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a statistic that is an accurate representation of how important one player is to a team, and Albert Pujols is legendary in that respect.
According to this story from FanGraphs, Pujols' WAR value is only slightly lower than Hank Aaron at this point in their careers. Pujols' value translates into five to 10 additional wins for whoever he plays for, meaning the Angels have the potential to win the AL West in 2012, having finished 10 games back in 2011.
Ten wins would've been a nice addition for the Chicago Cubs.
Albert Pujols has averaged 155 games per season, and his healing ability is approaching mythic proportions after his recovery from a broken forearm in 2011 after only 13 games missed. Pujols' fewest games played was in 2006, where he only played in 143 contests due to an injured oblique.
While Prince Fielder has been just as durable, Pujols' body type is not a warning sign, but rather a reminder of how athletic Pujols is.
With the departures of Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez in the offseason, the 2012 lineup is lacking offense. Had Pujols signed with Chicago, he would've not only made the lineup better, but the players hitting around him.
I've always been a proponent of lineup protection, most recently the Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder tandem in Milwaukee. Having said prior that Pujols has always had protection, it was because players were having amazing years they hadn't had before. Now, I'm starting to think that maybe Pujols was the reason those players produced.
Carlos Pena is a player known for his defense over his production at the plate. Albert Pujols is nearly identical to Pena in terms of fielding percentage, and has more Gold Gloves as well. The offensive production also is highly in favor of Pujols.
Even in a small market like St. Louis, Albert Pujols became a Major League Baseball star. Imagine what he could've done in the Second City. In LA, Pujols will become a worldwide superstar, especially with the Latino population in Los Angeles.
Pujols could've been a city's savior in Chicago, saving the franchise and becoming the biggest piece to the rebuilding of the Cubs not named Theo Epstein.
Paying Albert Pujols $254 million at the age of 32 is a massive undertaking by Arte Moreno and the Angels. Coupled with the signing of C.J. Wilson, it appears that the Angels are trying to win now, but these moves couldn't have happened without the massive television rights that Anaheim recently secured.
The signing of Pujols wasn't done purely as a baseball deal; it was done as a marketing move as well, much like what the Yankees do by signing the biggest free agents. LA can continue to ask astronomical prices for the rights to televise Angels games, and can point to Wilson and Pujols as to their reasoning why.
Chicago Cubs television ratings have been on a decline since 2009, and the local rights aren't as promising as they should be. The Cubs will need to start winning in order to garner the massive rights of the other big-market teams, and signing Pujols would've accomplished that.