Well, the feedback on last night's-turned-this morning's C.J. Wilson post turned out interesting. There was a resounding chorus of agreement on the basic premise mixed with some good discussion, as well as (as of the ungodly early-morning hour that I'm writing this) a suggestion that I sound despondent (which I'm not), a few "get over it"-type comments from the Twitterverse, and my personal favorite: "This is an overreaction Randy Galloway could be proud of." My lifelong dream of drawing a Galloway comp at one time or another has finally been realized. Next up: Hosting a weekend show with Greggo on a 100-watt station in Malakoff and death via driving my car straight into a wedge tornado.
Now that I've prattled on about the departure of Wilson to the Angels for some 2,000-plus words, though, I think it's time to hone in a bit on the other -- and arguably much, much bigger -- prize of the Angels' $300 million haul: Albert Pujols, the newly crowned $254 million man and worst nightmare of overzealous Mark Trumbo supporters throughout the greater SoCal region. No word on whether he's being launched into the sun (or Canada) in a fashion similar to Jeff Mathis just yet, but with a 0.20 walk-to-strikeout ratio over nearly career 600 plate appearances, he seems to be on the fast track to the kind of borderline acceptable career at first base that Chris Davis would probably kill to experience at this point.
But, heck, I digress. I will say that I have no intention of engaging in a full-scale breakdown of Pujols -- in part because other authors (such as Keith Law and Dave Cameron) have already covered the major bullet points, but also in part because I'm more interested in trying to work through how this is going to impact the Rangers. And unlike my noticeably discontented position on the loss of Wilson to the Angels, I'm actually finding some bright spots from the Rangers' perspective in the Pujols megadeal after having had nearly a full day to digest it and fully come to terms with it.
Well, sort of. There's a huge, huge fly in the ointment, but we'll get to that in a second.
The general sentiment among sabermetric types seems to be that the Angels substantially overpaid in both dollars and years for a major short-term upgrade, and that while this signing is a win for the Angels inasmuch as it helps them make up a ton of ground on the Rangers in virtually no time at all, it's also a "Pyrrhic victory" -- a win that could conceivably kneecap Los Angeles financially at some as-of-yet-undetermined point in the future, and could hinder them much sooner rather than later if his handful of chronic health problems and the cruel positional player aging curve catch up to him in just the next few years.
But what would such a decline look like quantitatively, and how would it impact his overall value? Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory and ESPN.com ran a 10-year projection on Pujols using his ZiPS forecasting system, and came up with the following per-year offensive statistics and wins above replacement totals. In the rightmost column you'll find Pujols' projected dollar value in a given season, given his total WAR in a single season and the projected value of buying a single win on the open market:
All told, we're looking at Pujols' projected value clocking in at between $185-190 million over the life of his 10-year deal. This is, of course, just one projection, and one that I think some people will regard as unduly pessimistic -- and thus unreliable -- given that the subject of the projection is a future Hall of Famer ... but it's not an unreasonable projection, either, and it's a projection which suggests that the Angels reached some $65-70 million above and beyond fair-value territory in order to make Pujols the new cornerstone of their franchise.
That isn't an insignificant sum by any means, and, as Pujols' projection shows (and as common sense would dictate to us), this has real potential to go south as early as 2015-16, when he'll be smack dab in the middle of his thirties and almost certainly slowing down from his present six- to seven-win clip. To that end, the Angels may be shooting themselves in the foot in more ways than one in exchange for the privilege of an enormous -- but not unlimited -- three-year upgrade at first base. As Cameron noted yesterday, the Pujols signing could compromise the Angels' short-term ability to lock up some of their most important players (a pillar of thought which the Rangers seem to be leaning particularly heavily on these days), and could also metastasize into a horrific late-contract albatross.
Those would both be very good things for the Rangers, and would unquestionably strip away a large chunk of our concerns about this signing from whichever lobe of the brain holds dominion over such matters. (As an aside, did you know that whole "humans only make use of 10 percent of their brains" thing is a big, fat myth? Now you do. In other news, Norm got married. Bet you didn't know that either.)
But as is usually the case, there's a problem. It may end up becoming a gargantuan problem.
According to Bill Shaikin and Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels were able to sign both Pujols and Wilson in large part because of a tentative agreement on a 20-year, $3 billion TV deal with FOX Sports West that includes an ownership stake in the network itself. That works out to an average annual compensation package -- comprising an undisclosed ratio of cash and stock -- in the general vicinity of $150 million, which, depending on the structure of the deal, could absolutely blow the Rangers' annual $80 million take from FOX Sports Southwest out of the water.
And though the Angels' new TV deal won't take effect until after their current TV deal -- which dispenses $50 million per year to the Angels' team coffers -- expires at the end of the 2015 season, it doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out that the Angels are the beneficiaries of a large up-front contract bonus, and that said bonus facilitated Arte Moreno and Jerry DiPoto's ability to spend like drunken sailors on Thursday. As for the Rangers' up-front contract bonus, I would imagine a substantial portion of it was applied towards Adrian Beltre's five-year deal ... but as for the questions of how much of that bonus is actually left and/or where the bonus is going, I can't give you good answers.
Unfortunately, this scenario is exactly the kind of thing that Jonah Keri was alluding to when he authored his now-famous write-up of the Rangers' TV deal (which sounded so much more impressive last year than it does right now now): "The Rangers hold an advantage, but they won't have it forever. For all of [Nolan] Ryan's emphasis on prudence, his team could lose some of its edge before Year 1 of its new deal even begins." And, well, there you go. There's your lost edge, as there exists only one year of separation between the beginning of the Rangers' new TV deal and the beginning of the Angels' new TV deal. It sucks for the Rangers, and it's unfair, but it is what it is.
And it is for these very reasons that the Angels, depending upon the extent to which they've been financially squared away by their new TV deal and corresponding bonus, may not ever feel the kind of sting from Pujols' inevitable decline (and potential nosedive) that many people think the Angels are exposing themselves to. They could get the living hell gouged out of them by the back end of the Pujols contract, and still be able to walk away under their own power where an organization with less financial wherewithal and less impressive revenue streams might be down for the count and crippled for years.
That's the biggest problem with assuming that the Angels have saddled themselves with a dire long-term dilemma ... but before you go pitching yourself off the top of Reunion Tower, there's another semi-bright spot here besides Pujols' underwhelming post-Year 3 projection, and it's that the Angels aren't suddenly runaway favorites to claim the 2012 divisional crown.
Let's keep this thought exercise relatively simple and limited to integers, for the purpose of not confusing ourselves beyond all hope: Pujols, a +6 WAR player, replaces Mark Trumbo, a +2 WAR player. Wilson, a +5 WAR pitcher, replaces whichever combination of pitchers would occupy the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation, which we could probably call +1 WAR overall. The Rangers, meanwhile, now have to use their fifth-best starter in place of Wilson -- and while this is where things become murkier, I think it's reasonable to believe that Wilson would have constituted a +3 WAR upgrade if inserted into the Rangers' starting rotation.
Thus, you're looking at the Angels having upgraded their roster by approximately +8 WAR going into the 2012 season, and the Rangers probably being -3 WAR down solely because of these two transactions. That's an 11-win swing, which sounds troubling because it is troubling ... but, lest anyone forget, the Rangers won the division by 10 games last season. And as if that wasn't impressive enough on its own, their third-order win-loss record was 21 games better than that of the Angels. They've made up a ton of ground, and they could probably even be considered divisional co-favorites with the Rangers at this point -- but I'm simply not going to be convinced that the Angels are now prohibitive AL West favorites. Not with so much left to be determined, and so much time left for that to happen.
Oh, yeah, and one more thing: the hot stove season isn't over. It's not even close to being over. And at least in my own mind, this is still the Rangers' division to lose. I don't begrudge anyone for feeling as though they were kicked repeatedly in their nether regions yesterday, and I may not have delivered as high a concentration of good news this morning as you would have liked, but let's give everything a bit more time to fully shake out before we're totally consumed by our own despair.