The Los Angeles Angels scooped up the biggest MLB free agent of the offseason on Thursday.
Albert Pujols officially agreed to a whopping $254 million, 10-year contract with the Angels that includes a no-trade clause. He will be leaving behind behind a St. Louis Cardinals team that has seen him through 11 seasons, two World Series titles, and three MVP awards. ESPN The Magazine‘s senior baseball writer, Buster Olney, joins Bill Littlefield to discuss the deal.
Olney attributes Pujols’ sudden decision to “the aggressiveness of [Angels] owner Arte Moreno.”
Pujols had been pursued by several other teams, including the Miami Marlins, who also offered him 10 years and over $200 million. But after getting deep into talks with the refurbished Florida squad, Pujols didn’t pull the trigger on the deal.
“All along they wouldn’t offer him a no-trade clause,” says Olney. “And for someone like Albert Pujols who has played for one team his whole career, he’s had a lot of stability in St. Louis, that was a deal breaker.”
It wasn’t until late Tuesday night that Dan Lozano, Pujols’ agent, received the call from the Angels. Negotiations didn’t take long after that.
“Incredibly, the whole thing came together in about 24 hours,” Olney says. “It’s pretty clear Albert was ready to leave St. Louis.”
Having just hired a new general manager in October, the Angels seemed one of the last teams in contention for nabbing Pujols because they didn’t have much money to spend. But Olney speculates that the decision was driven by their desire to compete with another California team.
“My own theory is that the annoucement by Magic Johnson that he is going to pursue purchasing the Dodgers may have jolted Arte Moreno into making this move,” says Olney. “Maybe he felt like, ‘Oh boy, next year the Dodgers might be re-branded, they might be coming back, and we better put our stamp on Southern California again.’”
From the perspective of the defending World Series champs, the loss of their best player in addition to the retirement of their manager, Tony LaRussa, will mean some serious adjustments going into next season.
“Lets face it, it’s an enormous hole in their lineup,” says Olney. “It’s going to be a an incredible transition year for them next year. There’s no natural fit for trying to replace one of the greatest hitters of all time.”