In the minds of many baseball fans, Albert Pujols was the best hitter to play for the St. Louis Cardinals since Stan Musial. Pujols hit .328 with 445 home runs in his 11 years with the Cardinals, and he received three MVP awards during those years. However, Pujols was eligible for free agency after a 2011 that saw career lows for his batting average and RBI totals. Is Pujols worth his $250 million contract with the Angels?
Despite his $25 million per year price tag, Pujols is still not the highest paid player in baseball, as that honor still belongs to Alex Rodriguez and his 10-year, $275 million contract. Soon after the Angels acquired Albert Pujols, they received a mega TV deal with Fox. This deal has certainly helped alleviate concern over the sum of money that the Angels are paying the 32-year old first baseman.
Albert Pujols is currently suffering through the worst start to a season of his career during 2012. Pujols finished the month of April with zero home runs and a paltry four RBI. Although his pace has picked up slightly in May with 13 RBI on the month and two home runs, he is still not playing at the same level at which fans have seen play throughout his career.
Pujols' batting average has been steadily declining each year since his most recent MVP season in 2009. However, his home run and RBI numbers have bounced around a bit. His power has been down considerably this season so far with about 70 percent of his hits having been singles. His 2011 start saw a similar percentage, but he managed to finish the season with 37 home runs.
Pujols' big contract is worthy of a few cringes primarily due to the age that the slugger will be at the end of his contract. Though his numbers are climbing this season, which points towards yet another great season, it will be interesting to see if he will still be playing up to his big contract during his last five years. Pujols will be 42 years old at the end of his contract, so his health and batting average will almost certainly decline as he heads towards the final years of his contract. Because of this decline, the Angels have likely set themselves up with a man who spent his best years in St. Louis at a discounted price.
Players with big bats have always been scooped up by teams with deep pockets once their 'discount' contracts expire, and that trend will likely continue for at least the next few years. However, expect teams to be more cautious before giving out big contracts that span seven or more years to players who are in their early 30s as Pujols ages. Speaking of which, Josh Hamilton's current contract will expire at the end of 2012. Will Hamilton be the next $200 million contract man?