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The Details on Albert Pujols' Deal

Over the weekend the Angels and Albert Pujols finalized the details on their contract. Or possibly they had finalized them before and just chose now to release that information. Jerks. I wrote up the ramifications up in more detail on FanGraphs and I'd recommend visiting here if you want all the nitty contract details concerning numerous incentive clauses. For my piece on FanGraphs I was interested in the base guaranteed salary and how back loading it affected the contract's net present value.

Ten years from now, we can look back at Pujols' performance and the eventual inflation rate in baseball salaries and hindsight judge whether it was worth it. For now, we have to guess at both. I think the best estimation is roughly 5% over the long haul as teams continue to explore and find new revenue streams (e.g. booming local TV deals) but have to deal with shrinking on-site revenues either from the economy at large or from a preference shift in more people being comfortable consuming sports via their own televisions. I certainly enjoy not charging myself $9 for a beer and there's far less screaming children and drunken frat boys in my apartment than at Safeco Field. Besides the inflation rate, there's also the current base to deal with, namely, 5% inflation of what? The what is how much are teams right now spending on purchasing wins in the free market. I believe that figure has dropped from at or near $5 million per win down to the mid-4 range this winter.

My conclusion is that given the current market, the Angels paid Pujols for something in the realm of 47 WAR of production and I'm skeptical that he manages to hit that mark. Another 47 WAR for Pujols would put him near 135 career WAR making him the sixth best position player in baseball history by that measure behind Ruth, Bonds, Cobb, Mays and Aaron. A comparison I like is Alex Rodriguez. Pujols was better over their comparable age-span (age 21-31), but the difference is small and from age 32 (Pujols' current age) so far, Rodriguez has been worth only 15-20 WAR in four seasons.

Originally I thought Pujols would come within throwing range of the 45 WAR mark over the next decade, but I'm now less sure. I think there's a definite chance of him clocking in around 25-30 WAR if the injuries and decline start to mount up and we've seen how they can do so in a hurry post-30 to people not named Barry Bonds. On the other hand, there is no floor.