Winter Meetings Blog: Day 4
The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings have wrapped up in Dallas. I’ll write a piece each night on the major and minor news of the day, especially involving the Philadelphia Phillies.
-The entire landscape of the baseball world changed in about a two hour span on Thursday morning. When the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim committed over $330 million dollars to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the American League West, National League Central, and entire sport spun on its axis. The Angels, a team that every major free agent seemed to leave at the altar over the past few years, drastically changed the present and future of their franchise. Here are the five thoughts that sprung to mind as I processed the biggest move of the Winter Meetings:
1. In the short term, L.A. is a legitimate World Series contender in 2012. The 2011 Angels won 86 games despite giving 573 plate appearances to Mark Trumbo and his .291 on-base percentage and 24 starts to Joel Pineiro and his 5.13 earned run average. Sub in the greatness of Pujols and the regular season consistency of Wilson and the team should win at least 10 more games.
2. In the long term, the Angels will rule L.A. for a long time. With a new television deal coming soon, the money is about to fly through the door for owner Arte Moreno. The franchise name change from California to Anaheim to Los Angeles was a calculated business move that is now complete with a dynamic star that will break records, win awards, and ultimately, put people in the stands for a decade. The Dodgers ownership situation is coming at exactly the right moment for the Angels to take over the city for a long, long time.
3. St. Louis has no one but themselves to blame for letting Pujols walk out the door. Just a Bit Outside's own Bob Nightengale summarized the events that led to Pujols leaving St. Louis in an eye opening manner. It is irresponsible to blame Pujols for being greedy in this situation. He gave St. Louis every opportunity from Day 1 to make him a Cardinal for life. The ownership group there won't say it, but the truth is very clear. The Cardinals did not want to keep Albert Pujols. If they did, he would have never left.
4. The commitment is outrageously large, but it's the nature of the sport. Baseball players get paid for what they have accomplished, not what they will accomplish. It's easy to sit there and say that L.A. will regret giving 10 years to a player who A) might be older than we think and B) has almost definitely had his best years. Regardless of the risk involved, the Angels just added the best hitter in the sport, and possibly the greatest first baseman in the history of the game.
5. Give credit to new Angel general manager Jerry Dipoto. The ex-Rockie closer and Toms River, NJ resident walked out the star of the week. His willingness to pounce on the situation when Pujols' camp was obviously unsure on where they wanted to be was a game changer.
-The Pujols move, couple with Milwaukee's signing of Alex Gonzalez, makes it very likely that St. Louis will emerge as the biggest competitor to the Phillies for the services of Jimmy Rollins. There is a ton of money to spend, a hole at shortstop, and a disappointed fan base that needs a reason the believe the team is serious about defending their 2011 World Series clown. To be honest -- with the emergence of Allen Craig and David Freese, the versatility of the offensive pieces and money to spend -- St. Louis can still put together a fierce team for 2012 with a few moves. Signing Jimmy Rollins to play shortstop and Carlos Beltran to play right field would give the Cardinals an offensive core that includes Rollins, Holliday, Berkman, Beltran, Freese, Craig, and Molina. The versatility of Craig and Berkman (OF or 1B) would allow the team to rest Berkman and Beltran to keep their legs and bat fresh. Philadelphia should look to get Jimmy Rollins signed up quickly before St. Louis decides to act on an idea like this.
-Wrapping up the week: Something tells me we are going to look back on the day that Theo Epstein traded for Ian Stewart as a big moment in the Cubs turn around...Dana Eveland summarizes everything that is wrong with how the Baltimore Orioles are forced to shop these days...Minnesota has proposed a three-year deal to keep Michael Cuddyer...Will one of these Rule 5 picks turn out to be the next Johan Santana?