D.J. Short

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Winter Meetings: Day Four

Friday, December 09, 2011


When I wrote the summary of Day Three of the Winter Meetings, it appeared that Albert Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, would leave Dallas without a contract for his client. Boy, were we wrong. 

 

This whole process is just the latest reminder that while the Hot Stove can be a lot of fun to follow, we really have no real idea of what will happen until it actually, you know, happens. Just sit back, take it for what it is, and before you know it, there will be baseball games again. That I do know. 

 

Let's talk about the fourth and final day of the 2011 Winter Meetings. 

 

Angels Sign Albert Pujols to Ten-Year, $254 Million Contract

 

Just moments before the Rule 5 Draft was scheduled to begin early Thursday morning, the Angels sent shockwaves through the baseball world by securing the game's best hitter. Albert Pujols, a three-time National League MVP, is no longer a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. That's going to take some getting used to. 

 

It was a stunning deal in many respects, mostly because the Angels weren't even in the running until late Tuesday night. However, emboldened by the Angels' new $3 billion television deal with FOX Sports, owner Arte Moreno gave the go-ahead to sign Pujols to the second-largest contract in baseball history. Only Alex Rodriguez's current 10-year, $275 million deal is bigger.

 

There are, of course, major ramifications to this contract from a fantasy perspective. First, just consider how this may impact Pujols offensively. According to latest edition of the Bill James Handbook, Busch Stadium ranked as the second-least favorable environment for home runs by right-handed batters over the past three seasons. Only the Indians' Progressive Field was more difficult. Makes his 55 regular season homers at Busch from 2009-2011 all the more impressive, don't you think? Dude's a machine. 

 

Angel Stadium is also considered a pitchers' park, but it is much more neutral for right-handed power hitters. I wouldn't discount the possibility that Pujols' batting average could take a minor hit with the league switch, but we can probably tack on a couple extra homers, at least. As of now, he would be my No. 1 pick in mixed leagues just ahead of Ryan Braun. It's pretty close, though.

 

The plan for the Cardinals is to move Lance Berkman to first base, but right field is a bit more of a question mark. Allen Craig underwent surgery on his right knee around Thanksgiving and might not be ready for Opening Day. This could cause the Cardinals to consider an outside option like free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. Jimmy Rollins is also a possibility at shortstop, but most think he will return to Philadelphia.

 

As for the Angels, they suddenly have a potential logjam at first base. Kendry Morales is recovering from a second surgery on his right ankle and suddenly looks like a non-tender candidate. As for Mark Trumbo, he could be potential trade-bait as part of a package for a closer like Andrew Bailey of the Athletics or perhaps Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates. 

 

Looking more broadly from a fantasy perspective, there just aren't many quality first baseman left in the National League. Pujols is off the board and it's still possible that Prince Fielder could follow him to the American League. Joey Votto is the clear No. 1 option, but the talent falls off pretty dramatically from there. Given the potential scarcity at the position, the Reds' first baseman shouldn't last longer than the first three or four picks in NL-only leagues.

 

Angels Keep Spending, Ink C.J. Wilson To Five-Year, $77.5 Million Deal

 

It takes a pretty big signing to overshadow the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, but that's exactly what happened Thursday. While everyone was still reeling from the news of Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis, the Angels struck again by signing left-hander C.J. Wilson.  

 

It was a massive and unprecedented day of spending for Angels' owner Arte Moreno, who has routinely missed out on top free agent targets in the past. It's even more interesting when you realize that Pujols and Wilson are combined to make more during the length of their contracts ($331.5 million) than Moreno spent for the team ($185.5 million) in 2003. 

 

Wilson should fit quite nicely in a rotation which also includes Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. The 31-year-old southpaw should also enjoy leaving the Ballpark in Arlington (one of the game's best hitting environments) for a much more neutral ballpark in Anaheim. Consider that he had a 2.56 ERA on the road over the past two seasons compared to a 3.70 ERA at home. He might be the third-best pitcher on his own team, but he should also be on the fringe of the top-20 starters in mixed leagues on draft day.

 

Cubs Land Ian Stewart In Four-Player Deal

 

In a trade which included three former first-round picks, the Cubs acquired third baseman Ian Stewart and right-hander Casey Weathers from the Rockies on Thursday for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder D.J. LeMahieu. The two sides finally agreed to the deal following more than a week of negotiations.  

 

Stewart is the headliner in the deal, even after a miserable season in which he batted just .156/.243/.221 with zero homers and six RBI over 136 plate appearances at the major league level. Part of his struggles in 2011 can be attributed to a nagging wrist injury, but his inability to make contact has dogged him over the past couple of seasons. The 26-year-old has struck out in 27.9 percent of his at-bats in the major leagues while his contact rate is well below the league average at 72 percent.

 

Still, it's hard to blame the new Cubs' front office for buying low here. Stewart has shown some power potential in the past and with Aramis Ramirez considered a lock to sign elsewhere, they need someone with some upside to play third base next season. Just don't count on him in your fantasy league. 

 

Other notables: The Brewers signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2013 … The Marlins are not expected to pursue free agent first baseman Prince Fielder … The Rockies are considering a three-year contract for free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer … The Diamondbacks and Lyle Overbay have agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million contract … Juan Carlos Oviedo will not face charges in the Dominican Republic related to his identity fraud case … The Cardinals are expected to non-tender infielder Ryan Theriot … The Tigers inked veteran reliever Octavio Dotel to a one-year deal with an option for 2013 … James Loney was arrested in Los Angeles last month on suspicion of driving under the influence … The Twins, Indians and Rockies are seen as the favorites to sign free agent outfielder Josh Willingham … The Orioles acquired left-hander Dana Eveland from the Dodgers … The Astros selected right-hander Rhiner Cruz from the Mets with the first pick of the Rule 5 Draft … 



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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