By Robert Cunningham - AngelsWin.com Columnist
Genius. Flawless. Perfection.
In one fell swoop, the acquisition of Albert Pujols has completely changed the landscape of the American League West and the Angels organization both now and into the foreseeable future.
The addition of Albert Pujols to the Angels line up will create an immediate impact to our offensive and defensive arrangement. Not only does he bring a feared, middle-of-the-order bat, but he brings above average defense to the position and established team leadership.
Albert’s impact on his teammates should be significant. First of all anyone hitting in front of him should see more fastballs and strikes as the opposing pitcher does not want a player to be on base when Albert steps up to the plate. Ideally Mike Scioscia should have hitters with great on base skills bat ahead of Albert so he can drive in runs. Putting men on base in front of Albert makes him very lethal at the plate. I suspect that we will see Bourjos lead off, followed by Howie Kendrick, and then Albert.
Secondly, if the opposing team chooses to walk Albert he will need protection hitting behind him. Those players hitting behind Albert should either have great contact/power skills to drive in any runners on base. I say players because whomever hits behind Albert and whomever hits behind that player should possess some hitting talent. Here I think, assuming Kendrys is ready, you will see one of Morales, Hunter, Wells, or Trumbo hitting behind Pujols. If Kendrys isn’t ready you will see Wells here I suspect (and he did well in 2010 behind Bautista in Toronto).
Third, Albert brings an above average glove (and at times gold glove caliber) to first base. Although Mark Trumbo did fairly well last year, it was only one year whereas Albert brings 11 years of premium defensive knowledge to the table. This will improve our defensive arrangement a bit and allow slight adjustments (shading left or right for all of our defensive positions) to our infield and outfield, dependent upon the hitter, which can only help our team prevent runs.
Also, Albert brings a leadership dimension that cannot be adequately measured but most definitely has an impact! Every player on the Angels team now knows that they do not have to shoulder all of the responsibility to lead and support their fellow players. This is particularly important to players like Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vernon Wells as they do not have to put pressure on themselves and push so hard, like they did last year, to lead by example (of course Vernon had a disastrous year but I do expect him to rebound to a certain degree).
Lastly, Albert can be a mentor to several of our young players by sharing his vast experience, especially with hitting, which can only improve talented athletes like Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger, and Mike Trout.
One very important aspect regarding the Pujols signing is the immediate impact it makes (and will continue to make) on recruiting and signing new talent and free agents, trades with other teams, and the finances of the team. In other words leverage.
The immediate impact was made with the concurrent signing of C.J. Wilson and the aftermath financial deal Arte Moreno penned with Fox Sports West (FSW, see Financial Impact). You have to believe that when Jerry Dipoto called C.J. Wilson up and asked him to wait, because they had “something special planned” that Wilson had some direct/indirect knowledge that Pujols would sign with the Halos. Simply by hiring, perhaps, the greatest hitter in the modern era, the Angels were able to sign a great starting pitcher, below his market price, providing additional value saved to the club long term.
In fact, by building a family atmosphere for his players here in Anaheim, Arte has created (and is continuing to create) a dynasty that should last for many years to come. One only needs to look at Jered Weaver’s extension a few months ago as a prime example of a player loving the experience in Anaheim and being unwilling to walk away from that experience. Albert recognized this aspect too and realized the Angels were the only team who would give it to him. As the added bonus, C.J. Wilson also saw how great a franchise the Angels are and wanted to be a part of the Angels tradition as well.
Lastly the impact to our future is tremendous. Our ability to convince players selected in future amateur drafts to sign with our team just dramatically increased. Like future free agents, the amateurs drafted will look at our team as a favorable place to sign their next contracts, possibly at a discounted rate.
The opportunity to play with Albert and win under Mike Scioscia will be a powerful draw and will provide an unquantifiable value in terms of savings to team payroll. Also it will be a potential boon in trades as there are several players in the league who have partial/full no-trade clauses in their contracts and, if presented with a trade opportunity to the Angels, might preferentially defer their no-trade status to play with us rather than another team.
As mentioned above the immediate financial leverage, from the Albert Pujols signing, allowed Arte Moreno to finalize a deal with Fox Sports for a $3,000,000,000 deal over 20 years!
Moreno’s business savvy and ability to time the market is impressive. The Dodgers, run down by the McCourt divorce and the broken deal with FSW, are a mess right now. Additionally, Fox, which is in a battle with Time Warner, was in desperate need of a Summer sport. FSW couldn’t afford to wait for the Dodgers to find a new owner, risk losing the bidding war to Time Warner, and potentially losing the Angels too. So, by signing Pujols to the mega-deal, Moreno greatly increased the value of the Angels to FSW.
By striking this deal the Angels will, beginning in 2015, start pulling in a reported, unconfirmed $85+ million per year. Additionally it is believed that the Angels will have an ownership percentage in FSW which can be used as an investment vehicle, cashed out at a later date, or used as financial leverage to build a new stadium (and this will probably have to happen sometime in the next decade as Angels stadium is getting old). This deal, if confirmed, clearly trumps the Rangers recent TV deal with Fox Sports SouthWest and goes into effect only 1 year after the Rangers deal begins.
The other advantage for FSW making this deal will come in the form of advertising revenue from commercials. I can only imagine that SoBe is possibly thinking about doing some more Jered Weaver ads. The market is wide open for Albert Pujols to sign some advertising deals and have those commercials run, prominently, during every televised game. This was a no-brainer for FSW and Arte knew it!
Game, Set, Match
Arte Moreno has set the bar even higher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Just like George Steinbrenner did in New York, he has built a new empire in Southern California. The reverberations of this signing have turned the Angels into a powerhouse franchise in the West. Along with the financial muscle, the Angels have pulled it all together in a short 2-month period of time: Hiring a new GM, assembling a new front office staff, signing two top free agents to put the Halos back firmly into contention, and doing it all without unnecessarily sacrificing our young talent.
Arte Moreno is painting a new picture and landscape for Angels fans everywhere. When we look back on this period in the team history I think everyone will truly appreciate how, with one signing, Arte elevated the Halos and completed his vision and portrait of our past, present, and future. In other words, his master stroke.