No matter where Albert Pujols signed, there was going to be an article about it on this website. He’s a behemoth of a baseball player, and anywhere he went was going to benefit greatly. But to go to sleep one day thinking that the Mariners were within shouting distance of a division title, and to go to sleep the next night knowing that the team had signed Pujols and C.J. Wilson out from under the Marlins was a sad way to go to sleep.
Albert Pujols immediately becomes the best player in the American League West.
It was a miserable feeling that day at work, contemplating when the next time the Mariners would truly compete for the American League West. So today we’re going to look at the Mariners-related fallout from the Angels signing Albert Pujols.
The Angels are really, really good now
CJ Wilson adds depth to an already outstanding Angels rotation.
In our newly minted Facebook group there was a post about Pujols on Thursday. My response was thouroughly pessimistic, which contrasted that of the other posters, who are guys who have opinions I respect quite a bit.
So here is my case. The Angels won 86 games last year, and even though they didn’t make the playoffs, their Pythagorean win-loss and total team WAR don’t show that the win total was an aberration. They did so, however, without Kendrys Morales. Bobby Abreu did most of the team’s DHing last year, and was worth about a half win. The last full season Morales played he was worth 3.4 WAR, and was well on his way to that when he broke his leg in 2010. Let’s say Morales returns and is worth 2.5 WAR, he’s a two marginal win gain over Abreu.
If the team opts to DH Pujols, in even his worst year he was worth 4.5 wins more than Abreu. Even Mark Trumbo was nearly two wins better than Abreu last year (about a half win came from fielding production). With potential a full season out of Mike Trout, and a regression to mean for Vernon Wells, the outfield may be worth 5 more wins than last year, and no matter what the team will be trying to put Wells, Trumbo, Trout, Peter Bourjos, and Morales into three spots, which is a good problem to have, and any one of those players (ok, probably not Wells) could be trade bait to add more production.
That doesn’t even start to project Wilson, who has averaged about 5.3 WAR per season in his time as a starter, and is essentially replacing Joel Pineiro. Wilson was worth about 4.5 WAR more than Pineiro last year, and has pitched much better in Anaheim than he in Texas during his career (16 games in Anaheim).
It’s really hard to see the Angels as a team who has added any less than 10 WAR this offseason, and that feels like a pretty conservative estimate considering the roster flexibility they still possess. Dave Morris Jr. said that the Angels didn’t become a 100+ win team, I believe that he is wrong.
The Price of Royalty
Prince Fielder may cost the Mariners a lot more than he would have without the Pujols signing.
There was plenty of reason why for some teams, and some general managers, Prince Fielder was a more appealing candidate than Prince Albert (eww) . He’s more than four years younger, left-handed, and figures figured to be quite a bit less expensive.
When Pujols signed for whatever amount his contract will end up being, but in the range of 10 years and $254 million, he probably activated about every saliva gland in Scott Boras’ mouth. Hopefully he didn’t have the same effect on Fielder, as the rotund slugger may end up holding down the first base position for the Mariners for more than a half-decade (hopefully he won’t be holding it down the way a heavy sandbag holds down a hot air balloon).
The reality is that Fielder may be out of the Mariners price range, and probably a lot of other teams too.
And while Fielder may have reduced the amount of reasonable suitors for his services, organically speaking the Pujols signing gave the Mariners no advantage in the Fielder market. Were Pujols to sign with the Cardinals or Marlins, presumably either team would have not been interested in Fielder in addition to Pujols, and thus the field of suitors would have been reduced. Instead, the Mariners will have to battle the entire remainder of teams interested in Fielder if they want to bring him to Seattle.
I didn’t think the Mariners should break the bank for Fielder before, and considering that his price tag has likely risen, I really don’t think they should now.
The landscape and horizon of competition
Trading Felix Hernandez may become the Mariners best option.
Even if the Mariners do sign Fielder (which I really don’t think they should), they have a lot of additional improvements to make to become a team comparable with the Angels. They don’t have the resources that the Angels have, and will likely only lose ground as Arte Moreno seems to have his finger on the pulse of Los Angeles, and has marketed his team beautifully since buying the Angels in 2004.
So the team has to find a way to win that isn’t simply outbidding the Angels and the rest of the division for the top players on the free agent market.
The team has three years left with Felix Hernandez, and if they can’t be competitive before his time is done in Seattle, they’ll have to trade him before the beginning of 2014 to maximize his value with the new Type A rules in MLB.
Before Thursday that was unthinkable, as Felix will be only 28 in 2014. However, the Mariners are going to have a hard time competing before then, and if they’re going to compete by the time Pujols and Wilson are in the middle of their regression from their primes, they need elite talent on the team.
If the Mariners are going to be greater than the sum of their present parts, a huge source of acquiring the talent needed to get them there could come from a trade of King Felix.
The Heat of Jack Z’s Seat
Jack Zduriencik may be one of the best general managers in baseball, but may be the best GM in baseball without a job soon.
I’m a huge supporter of Jack Zduriencik, but this may have been a death blow to his tenure in Seattle. You see, sports don’t seem to work under the rules of the rest of the world. If Zduriencik sold real estate for a company who had their headquarters in Yelm, they probably wouldn’t expect him to sell a lot of high-rise penthouse condominiums, but to Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong, environment and circumstance don’t seem to matter.
Albert Pujols is an Angel, and that sucks. But buckle up, because it may just get shittier before it gets better.
Sometime this weekend I will look at why Pujols won’t “A-Rod” the Angels.