Albert Pujols may have gotten a better deal than the Los Angeles Angels with his new contract, said Michael Cramer, who was president of the Texas Rangers when they gave Alex Rodriguez $252 million over 10 years.
Pujols, a three-time National League Most Valuable Player with the St. Louis Cardinals, agreed to a 10-year deal with the Angels yesterday that’s worth between $250 million and $260 million, according to Yahoo Sports. Pujols turns 32 next month and would be 42 at the end of the deal in 2021.
“A long-term contract for this kind of money for somebody in that age bracket is off the wall,” Cramer, the director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think it’s a good investment.”
Pujols, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Cardinals and won two World Series titles, may be getting a deal with an average annual value that rivals the Major League Baseball- record 10-year, $275 million deal Rodriguez signed with the New York Yankees in 2007.
“It was all about getting an A-Rod type of a deal and going on the mantle as a guy who deserves this type of money,” Wayne McDonnell, who created the “Business of Baseball” course at New York University, said in a telephone interview.
Pujols, a Gold Glove-winning first baseman with a career .328 batting average and 445 home runs, would be only the third player in baseball history with a contract worth more than $200 million, after Rodriguez’s two deals.
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki got a 10-year, $157 million contract in December 2010, while Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun agreed last year on a reworked deal that would pay him $145.5 million over 10 seasons. Tulowitzki is 27 years old and Braun is 28.
Rodriguez was 25 when he signed his 10-year contract with the Rangers. That agreement was reached at baseball’s Winter Meetings held in Dallas, which was also the site of this week’s gathering. Rodriguez was 32 and coming off a third American League MVP award and a 54-home run season when he landed his record deal with the Yankees in 2007.
“When we signed him in Texas he was in his 20s and he hadn’t missed a game,” Cramer said. “He was playing 159, 160, 161 games a year and the guy was almost indestructible. Pujols has been pretty sound physically but doesn’t even have the staying power that A-Rod did, and A-Rod broke down.”
Rodriguez, now 36, was limited to 99 games last season because of injuries and hit a career-low 16 home runs after 30- home run campaigns in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs over a three-year period beginning in 2001.
“We can speculate whether it was the drugs, or the lack of drugs, that has caused A-Rod to break down and lose some of his skills,” Cramer said. “He was as solid an athlete and consistent performer as anyone I’ve ever seen, and he broke down. Would you pay $20 million a year for A-Rod now for the next six years if you had the choice?”
Dave Roher, the outgoing president of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, said statistics for Hall-of-Fame caliber players such as Pujols and Rodriguez can be harder to compare or project against their peers.
“If you look at the aging curves of Hall of Famers, they have some of the most productive seasons when they’re older,” Roher said in a telephone interview. “These really great players tend to stick around a little bit longer.”
Hank Aaron, who ranks second in baseball history with 755 home runs, hit 40 homers at age 39. He dropped to 20 the following season and 12 in 1975 at age 41.
Babe Ruth is third all-time in home runs and hit at least 40 every season for the Yankees from 1926 until 1933. He dropped to 34 at age 38 and then 22 the following season, his last full year in the majors.
Pujols, a nine-time All-Star and the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, has yet to hit fewer than 32 home runs in a season since coming up in 2001.
The 2010 season was Pujols’s first without 100 runs batted in, as he finished with 99 for the World Series-champion Cardinals and missed about two weeks after breaking a bone in his forearm. Even with his offensive production, McDonnell, an associate professor of sports management at NYU, said he’s surprised Angels owner Arturo Moreno is spending so much.
“When you’re paying a player that much, you know you’re going to lose at some point,” McDonnell said. “It’s completely surprising and uncharacteristic of Moreno, a guy who has developed a reputation of being an aggressive owner, but a very smart owner.”
Age Not a Concern
Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto, speaking at a news conference in Dallas yesterday, said he wouldn’t discuss the length or financial terms of the contract.
“Pujols’s age is not a concern,” Dipoto said. “He hits like he’s 27.”
Moreno, who once was a co-owner of the advertising company Outdoor Systems Inc., bought the team from the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) in 2003 for about $180 million. The purchase price would be $70 million to $80 million less than what the team has committed to Pujols, according to the Yahoo Sports report.
“We could be dealing with a situation where Pujols could be very productive for five years, but they’re going to be grossly overpaying for a ballplayer into his 40s,” McDonnell said.
The Angels have missed the playoffs the past two years after making the postseason six times in an eight-year span and winning the 2002 World Series. At 86-76, they finished second in the AL West this year behind a Rangers team that’s made back-to- back trips to the World Series.
“They’re used to winning and I think they’re smarting a little bit over the last couple of years,” Cramer said of the Angels. “I just don’t think it’s a good move, and historically I don’t think it bodes well for the last few years.”
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