Pujols goes to the Angels. Why did the Cardinals lose him?

Albert Pujols has agreed to a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. This ends Pujols' storied tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, but did the Angels make a good deal?

Tom Gannam/AP/File
In this file photo, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols following through on a solo home run as Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto watches in the first inning of a baseball game, in St. Louis. Pujols has agreed to a 10-year, $254 contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Albert Pujols, arguably one of the greatest players ever to wear a Cardinals uniform, will not end his career in St. Louis.

The celebrated first baseman has agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels worth $254 million. Once set in ink, Pujols’ contract will be the second largest in MLB history, just behind Alex Rodriguez’s $275 deal with the New York Yankees.

To most, the Angels landing Pujols comes as somewhat of a shock; as late as yesterday evening, Pujols’ prospects looked to be narrowed down to either the Miami Marlins or the Cardinals. But the Marlins withdrew the Pulols offer to focus on pitching, landing big name pitchers like Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. They’ve also agreed to a deal with shortstop Jose Reyes,  $106 million over six years.

Anaheim has also secured a top pitcher on the market, left hander CJ Wilson, for $77.5 million over five years.

The Angels’ moves are the talk of Major League Baseball today, but, according to some, the Pujols deal may not have been ideal for Los Angeles. “I'm not sure signing Albert is right for them at all,” says sports economist Stephen Walters, who has worked as a financial consultant for Major League teams including the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox. “The ultimate rate of return here is likely to be very low, even negative, as Albert ages.”

The Cardinals, meanwhile, couldn’t quite pony up the cash that Pujols was looking for. According to ESPN, St. Louis’ final offer to their franchise player was smaller than initially thought: just under $200 million over nine years. That would’ve made Pujols, who was reportedly looking for a deal to rival A-Rod’s record setters, only the fourth highest paid first baseman in the league. With the Angels deal, he’s number one.  

Many thought that if the money was close, Pujols would have remained a Cardinal. But a difference of $50 million isn’t close. The Angels contract also includes a no-trade clause, something that the Marlins and other clubs were unwilling to commit to for a 31-year-old player who, as good as he is, may have already peaked.

With Pujol’s annual $25 million plus change, and $15.5 million for Wilson, the Angels’ annual payroll is at $160 million per year. Last season’s payroll of  $140 million was the league’s fourth largest, behind the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox, respectively. The Angels also boast one of the largest TV contracts in the league, a 10-year deal with FOX worth $500 million.

The payroll and TV deal are an indication of the Angels organization’s prodigious growth over the past decade. In 2003, current Angels owner Arte Moreno bought the team from the Disney Company for $184 million. Pujols’ contract alone is worth nearly twice that much.

The Cardinals, in contrast, had the league’s 12th largest payroll, at just under $99 million. They were prepared to stretch that figure quite a bit: Pujols made $14.5 million last year, and he probably would have upped that annual sum to somewhere near $20 million.

But according to Walters, they might have dodged a bad deal with Pujols, whose contract may echo the blockbuster A-Rod deals in another way:  “Texas regretted the first mega-deal [Rodriguez] signed and actually paid part of his contract to get rid of him,” he says. “The Yankees now regret the latest deal they signed with him.  There's euphoria in Anaheim right now, and may be for a couple of years, but I suspect this contract eventually will be talked about in the same way A-Rod's deals are today.”

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