- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Albert Pujols is likely out for the year, given the amount of time he will miss. From ESPN Stats & Information, the most money owed to a player based on where deals will be at the start of the 2014 season:
Joey Votto: $225M (signed through 2023)
Albert Pujols: $212M (2021)
Prince Fielder: $168M (2020)
Buster Posey: $164M (2021)
Justin Verlander: $160M (2019)
Pujols' salary takes a sizable increase next year -- from $16 million to $23 million, with $1 million annual raises from there until 2021, when he'll be making $30 million at the age of 41. Pujols' value, meanwhile, is trending in the opposite direction:
2009: 9.7 WAR
2010: 7.5 WAR
2011: 5.4 WAR
2012: 5.0 WAR
2013: 1.4 WAR
As mediocre as he's been this year -- .258/.330/.437 -- it doesn't mean he can't reverse course next year. He was still pretty effective in 2012 and no doubt has been affected by his foot problems all season. Keep in mind that David Ortiz hit .257/.356/.498 from ages 32 to 34 but has hit .317/.407/.584 over the past three seasons. I would suggest a Pujols renaissance isn't an impossibility (not that I'd bet on it happening to the extent of Ortiz's improvement).
Still, it seems pretty clear the Angels aren't going to extract anything close to $212 million of value from Pujols over the next eight seasons. It doesn't mean the contract will cripple the Angels' future -- it's just too difficult to look that far into the future. And the biggest problem with the Angels right now isn't the money they paid Pujols and Josh Hamilton in 2013 but their production.
You do wonder, however, if there will be ripple effect from the Pujols deal and the similarly bad Alex Rodriguez contract signed after 2007. The Reds may be enjoying Joey Votto's production right now, but he's making $17 million this year, $12 million next year, $14 million in 2015 and then $20 to $25 million from 2016 to 2023 -- when he'll be 39.
Prince Fielder is on the list above and he's not having a Prince Fielder season. Once you look past the 75 RBIs (it helps hitting behind Miguel Cabrera!), he's hitting .261/.353/.440, far below his career line of .284/.389/.529, and numbers unacceptable for a guy who brings no value in the field or on the bases. He's hitting .249/.332/.395 since May 1; maybe it's just a three-month slump or maybe it's the beginning of something more ominous.
Maybe the moral of the story is to be careful about signing players on the left end of the defensive spectrum. Maybe there is no lesson to be learned here and teams will continue to offer contracts to players that run well past their prime years. Impending free agent Robinson Cano is one of the best players in baseball right now at age 30. Will he still be one of the best in three years? Five years? Eight years? Does it even matter if he can help you win in 2014 and 2015?
ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski reports that each Win Above Replacement is currently worth about $4.9 million on the open market. Assuming 4 percent inflation, Dan estimates Cano will be worth $181 million over the next eight seasons, using projected WAR totals from his ZiPS projection system. Considering Dustin Pedroia just signed a $100 million extension, that total seems reasonable with $200 not out of the realm of possibility.
Whether he returns to the Yankees or goes to the Dodgers or some other deep-pocketed team, everyone will undoubtedly be delightfully happy the day Cano signs. Of course they will be. Angels owner Arte Moreno was the day Pujols signed: "This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited."