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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen
Friday, December 09, 2011
Angels - Sign Pujols
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sign 1B Albert Pujols to a 10 year/ $254 million contract. Other details are not yet available, though there is some form of a no trade clause.
OK, everybody has heard of the guy. I’m going to assume that his official age is his true age—all bets are off if he is in fact older. I think it’s doubtful but not absolutely impossible that he is in fact a few years older.
The real key to this signing is how he’ll age. The awkward thing in terms of figuring this out is that there aren’t that many players who are truly comparable. First of all, there simply aren’t many players who can be sanely compared to him as offensive players. Second, even among elite players he’s got an unusual collection of talents. While it would be silly to call him undisciplined, he walks less than most elite hitters. He’s unusually good at making contact for a power hitter. Among players we have actual swing and miss numbers, only Barry Bonds is comparable among true power hitters.
What this means is that we’re probably stuck with general rules when it comes to how he’ll deal with father time. The first general rule is that elite players age very well. To be specific, absent a major injury there’s no reason to fear age related decline as a hitter for the next 5 years. Seriously. As a group guys who were offensive superstars at 31 and were playing regularly at 37 hit almost as well from age 32 to 37 as they did from age 29 to 31. The gotcha is that more than a few didn’t make it to 37. As a group the overall decline is roughly .37 offensive wins per year and it’s almost totally down to lost playing time.
After that, it’s mostly a health lottery. There’s good reason to expect him to be among the better hitters in the league if healthy through age 39. And the last two years of the contract ... He could play well. He could play regularly. Odds are against both happening. Put it together and I get an estimated 46.5 offensive wins over the balance of the contract. If he has good luck with his health he’ll beat that.
So this looks like an overpay. But it’s worth noting that in a study of revenue I found two points that argue that it might not be. There’s pretty strong evidence that signing elite players functions as strong advertising. At least for this year and as long as Pujols continues to play well, a minimum of 20% of the contract can be expected to be offset by the increased demand that signing Pujols will create.
Second, a huge portion of marginal revenue (that is the revenue generated by team quality) is a function of making the playoffs and winning the World Series. Now clearly adding Pujols does not make the Angels a lock for the playoffs, never mind the World Series, but any year they make the playoffs narrowly and Pujols has played as expected, Pujols will more than pay for himself.
Put it all together and I give the Angels a better than fair chance of thinking they made a smart signing. It’s a risky move to be sure, and I totally understand any team not willing to commit to 10 years to any player, particularly one who is coming off a relative disappointment.
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