The Los Angeles Angels have signed Albert Pujols to a ten year contract worth $254 million. The deal contains a full no trade clause. It’s the second largest contract in the history of baseball.

By my calculations, in order for this contract to work out, Pujols will have to be worth approximately 42 wins above replacement over the length of the contract, so from ages 32 to 42. In order for him to do that, according to a typical 0.55 WAR decline, he would have to be considered a 7 WAR player right now.

In 2011, Pujols was judged to be worth:

  • 5.1 WAR according to FanGraphs;
  • 5.4 WAR according to Baseball Reference; and
  • 5.8 WARP according to Baseball Prospectus.

Admittedly, Pujols missed some time due to injury and had a bad start to the season. However, this deal is not without major risks and they extend far beyond questions surrounding his real age.

If we look at the last three years to find Pujols’ true talent, we get values of:

  • 7.2 WAR according to FanGraphs;
  • 7.1 WAR according to Baseball Reference; and
  • 8.6 WARP according to Baseball Prospectus.

So, how you feel about this deal depends on how you feel about Pujols true talent level right now. Is he the 7ish WAR player reflected in the value that he offered over the last three years, or is he the 5.5ish WAR player reflected in the value that he offered in 2011?

When we looked at the way in which long-term contracts worked and why players prefer them to short-term deals, we looked at how baseball contracts share a lot in common with a mortgage. Teams essentially set up deferred payment schedules within their deals so that the value they offer at beginning of the contract, which ideally is worth more than the player is getting paid, ends up evening out during the back end of the deal when the player is presumably worth less than what he’s getting paid.

In other words, front offices in baseball justify the handing out of long-term deals, by treating a contract as though it’s a mortgage. Baseball history shows us that a player;s talent level will decline from its peak as they get older. A well-planned, long-term contract will underpay for the player’s value in the beginning of the deal and overpay for his value in the end. Similarly, at the beginning of a mortgage, the payments mostly cover interest, but as it nears the end, most of the equity gets paid off.

Tom Tango offers us the hypothetical scenario of a true talent 4.0 WAR player signing a six year contract for $78 million dollars who declines at a regular rate of .55 WAR each season. If you only look at the first three years of the contract, it’s a fantastic deal. If you only look at the final three years of the contract, it’s a horrible deal. However, if you think of the back end of the deal as deferred payments for the value from the front end, it is a fair deal.

Wins $/win EarnSalary ActSalary
4.0    $5.00    $20    $13
3.5    $5.25    $18    $13
2.9    $5.51    $16    $13
2.2    $5.79    $13    $13
1.4    $6.08    $9     $13
0.9    $6.38    $3     $13

What it all comes down to is that if Pujols is anything less than a 7 WAR player right now, the deal is a failure in terms of value added. So, as many opportunities this deal may give the Angels in the short term, I’ll predict that it won’t be enough to stop fans from being justified in saying that Los Angeles overpaid for Albert Pujols.

Comments (32)

  1. Wow! I didn’t expect that.

  2. What a combo, Wells and Pujols.

  3. So does this make Trumbo and Morales available?

  4. According to MLBTR, Morales is a non-tender candidate.

  5. Having Morales in the 1B/DH/LF mix with Lind/Encarnacion/Snider/Thames makes a lot of sense given the splits of the lefties. Would be a high ceiling signing that fits within “parameters” and a Lind/Morales hybrid could put up some pretty good numbers.

  6. If Morales is healthy could be a decent pickup.

    • If he’s non tendered, I think it’s a fair assumption that he isn’t healthy. But heck if he’s not going to cost anything in a trade, why not pick him up and park him on the DL for a bit. It’s a good upside play.

  7. A shame those fucks didn’t wait to start a trade for Morales petition…

  8. I think it’s pretty hard to argue that Pujols won’t be a 7 War player or more again this year.

  9. …and the NL Central just got (more) weaker

  10. Are you taking into account inflation? Sometimes that moves faster than players declines do.

  11. Can someone please elaborate on the formula used to determine the monetary value of WAR? I’m skeptical about this.

  12. I know there’s a lot of people who care not a whit about this, but please allow me to feel a bit of sadness that one of the best players in the history of the game will not be spending his entire career with one team.

  13. You know Parkes is the most extreme Sabermetrics fanboy when Albert signs a deal, the biggest contract announcement in baseball in years and the first thing he brings up is W.A.R.

    Enough with the fucking W.A.R. it is not the end all / be all of baseball aptitutde. The Angels are not thinking of how much Pujols W.A.R. will be in 2018, they are thinking of the Championships they think they could have in the next few years and beyond and the potential huge spike in attendance.

    • WAR is based off a lot of the stats we see and know everyday, it actually makes them simpler. You now have one number that tells you what he’s worth. How is that bad?

      If we’re talking about the Angels winning championships, we’re looking at how valuable Pujols is to them. How much of an improvement is he over what they had? Over an average player? What does he bring, and how can we quantify it? WAR tells us that. That’s part of what makes it great.

      • I think that is exactly what Mike W is suggesting…maybe you can’t sum up a player’s impact using one single number, and is it even a good thing that you think we can? Statistics are great, but they totally disregard the single most important factor in any professional athlete, and that is psychology. Being human, we are vulnerable to just about any external influence available, and you just cannot put a number on that. For instance, the whole mindset of a team can change just from having one player join their team, especially a hyped player like Pujols. Decisions cannot just be based on numbers.

        • Golf may be an individual sport, but Tiger Woods may be the single greatest example of psychology in sports. Not week’s before his marriage fell apart he was unequivocally the best golfer in the world by far. Did his marriage falling apart and the scandal alter his athletic ability to play the game? Absolutely not. The mental side of sport is huge and is diminished further and further people choose to look solely at statistics as the only means to evaluate value and performance.

          • I don’t think anyone is dismissing the mental side of sports, or the intangible factors of having Pujols join the Angels. But when analyzing a deal like this, how can you factor it in? How do we know what effect Pujols will have on the clubhouse? Will he get along with all of them? Will he like playing in Anaheim? Will he find Mike Scocsia as intolerable as we do? We don’t know, and it would be irresponsible to suggest that we would.

            I read an email exchanage on Grantland about the debate between stats and… uh… not-stats between Jonah Keri and Chris Jones, and Jones mentioned (I think) about someone suggesting that stats have killed the human interest baseball story. And that would be sad.

            I don’t think sabermetric supporters are trying to kill the mental side of the game. But statistics can help us evaluate what we can see: the game itself. They’re not the whole picture by any means. But they’re the most accurate way. And that’s the basis this article is written on, I believe. What has Pujols done on the field? And how will that translate going forward?

            Certainly, there are other considerations.
            Part of the beauty of baseball is that we can’t predict what’ll happen. Statistics would have said that both the Rays and the Cardinals making the playoffs was near impossible. But it happened, and it was gloriously fun. It’s why we watch. But statistics can help us understand the game better.

  14. doesn’t this make fielder seem like a complete bargain?

  15. BREAKING: OriLOLs acquire Dana Eveland.

  16. What a trader!!!!!

  17. peoples. bottom line is, you gotta think this helps them in the al west or wild card (bad for jays), and once they’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. like, pujols could hit .250 and the angels, with three good starters can win. in some ways it’s insane, in other ways, eminently reasonable.

  18. and the next question – what do the Rangers do as a result?

  19. I could understand this move if the Angels were a win-now team who needed to mortgage future flexibility to get over the top right now, but that isn’t what the Angels look like to me. Maybe with their new TV deal (or whatever) the Angels don’t have much in the way of financial constraints, but it looks like they’re going to have very limited flexibility when young, elite talent like Trumbo, Trout and Bourjos have their best years. That’s what I don’t get about this contract: the tail costs are going to diminish the opportunities available to a core of really good, young players.

  20. I don’t give a shit what you say….No player is worth that much money.That’s why they need caps in baseball.I hope Pujols falls flat on his face.And the Angels don’t win more than 80 games.Looks good on them.

  21. ITS all about the money..these players are so greedy..and its the fans who have the suffer..expect ticket prices to skyrocket..absolutely disgraceful to cardinals organization and the fans that pay big money to these players

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