Let me apologize up front about the first part this one if Buck and Pat talked about it ad nauseam on last night’s Sportsnet broadcast. I watched the Angels feed, so I have no idea whether or not they did, but it definitely seems like something they might have prattled on about.
Also, it comes from Arash Madani, who I’d wager definitely told it on the broadcast. Plus, it has been retweeted damn near a thousand times, so it seems very possible you’ve already seen it.
And yet, how can I not share it? Hot damn, Albert Pujols.
That’s some Tulowitzki level shit right there, but from a guy on the opposing team! And a damn legend, at that.
Arash shared a couple other Pujols tidbits this weekend:
Stroman says he'll talk to Pujols to "clear things up" after what happened at the end of the game. "All respect to Pujols," Stroman said.— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) April 23, 2017
Just spoke with Pujols about the end of Sunday's game and reaction to Stroman. "We're cool, man," Pujols said. "It happens. I've moved on."— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) April 25, 2017
Arash adds that Pujols says he’s just doing for others what players did for him as a youngster, and it’s a hell of a way for Pujols to be spending his twilight years in the league.
Er… or what would be his twilight years.
* * *
Over this past off-season Pujols passed the halfway mark on the ten year — ten year! — contract he signed with the Angels following the 2011 season. He still has four seasons to go after this one (which is still less than a month old), and gets a $1 million raise in each of them, from $26 million this year, up to $30 million in the final year of his deal, 2021.
He was worth 0.9 WAR last year, according to FanGraphs. So far this year he’s at -0.2. Here are his wRC+ marks for each season since 2008, including the first 20 games of this one (* denotes his first year with Anaheim): 184, 180, 164, 147, 133*, 112, 123, 115, 111, 77.
Pujols is a good enough hitter to rebound and have a respectable enough 2017. Look two and three and four seasons into the future, however, and things get wayyyyyyyy ugly.
How did the Angels end up in such a quagmire? Mostly because, at the time they went out and bet big on him, he was Albert fucking Pujols. I imagine their thinking was quite a lot like a quote in a piece I read this week by Michael Baumann of the Ringer: “he’s so good now that he’s got a long way to decline before he even slides all the way down to league average.”
The player Baumann is talking about? Josh Donaldson.
Now, before your eyes go red with rage and steam starts coming out of your ears, let me assure you that I recognize that this isn’t necessarily the best comparison. It is, in fact, for the most part a bad comparison. For Pujols the decline to league average and beyond was fast and fucking hard, and not everybody ages the same way. (Not everybody believes Pujols is the age he says he is, either, though that’s not an assumption I’m going to bother with.) Plus, Donaldson provides value with his glove that Pujols never could. He’ll stay more valuable for longer because he’s not so purely reliant on his bat — assuming his all-out defensive style doesn’t lead to injury troubles down the road. And, though both have been remarkably healthy players in their careers, Pujols had a whole lot more mileage on him when he hit free agency, too: nearly 8,000 plate appearances from turning pro at 20 through his age 31 season, compared to Donaldson, who turned pro at 21 and is just now in his age 31 year, at 5,600.
They’re not very similar at all, really. But there are some interesting parallels, too.
For example, in their age-29 and 30 seasons — Donaldson’s first two in Toronto, Pujols’ second and third last in St. Louis — they ended up within one win of each other. Pujols was the better hitter, at 172 wRC+ compared to 154, but Donadlson’s glove (and base running) more than closed the gap, putting his WAR at 16.3 to Pujols’ 15.3 in nearly the exact same number of plate appearances (1411 to 1400). Both won an MVP at age 29 and finished in the top five at age 30.
One hit free agency after his age 31 season, the other is due to hit free agency after his age 32 year.
Baumann’s piece, which is great, mostly argues against the Blue Jays rebuilding, using some key ideas that we’ve talked about around here for a long time, I think. “This team would be a contender if it had better injury luck and everything hadn’t gone suddenly and comprehensively to shit in the first two weeks of the season, and there’s no particular reason to think that wouldn’t be the case next year if they held it together and maybe picked up a free agent or two. But that requires running the Blue Jays like a big-market club, rather than the alternative.
“If Donaldson walks,” he writes, “it won’t be because the Blue Jays can’t afford him — it’ll be because ownership doesn’t care enough to keep him.”
I’m all on board for them to just fucking do it. There is zero excuse for this team to not be spending to at least the luxury tax threshold. Their ratings when they’re winning are massive. Shit, as I’ve been tweeting this afternoon, Booster Juice is buying up space on in-stadium ad boards when the Blue Jays visit places like Anaheim, just to take advantage of all the Canadian eyeballs that will be on the game. And I don’t think we live in a world anymore where the market for even a player as great as Donaldson, heading into his age-33 season, is going to reach eight or ten years.
But Donaldson’s next contract will be huge. The Jays should be the ones paying it. It will feel like a glorious goddamn gift if they do. And yet…
184, 180, 164, 147, 133*, 112, 123, 115, 111, 77, __, __, __, __.
And on the other hand, Baumann lays this on us:
If the Jays trade him before this year’s deadline — i.e., when the team acquiring Donaldson would potentially be able to use him in two postseasons — the prospect haul would likely be staggering. If they’re smart and lucky, like the Yankees were at last year’s deadline or the White Sox were this past offseason, they could restock their farm system with the core of the next good Blue Jays team in just one trade.
ARE WE HAVING FUN IN 2017 YET???