Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Angels had only $15 million to $20 million to spend, saying that owner Arte Moreno wanted to cap the team’s 2012 payroll at $140 million.
The Angels will spend more than $25 million per season on free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols alone — and they added left-hander C.J. Wilson for another $15.5 million per year.
The sleeping giant of the Southland awakened Thursday morning, ending years of frustration in the free-agent market by reaching agreement with Pujols on a 10-year contract worth $254 million.
Yes, the contract is a whopper, it’s the second-largest in major-league history behind Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million deal. But the Angels, as an American League club, operate with the safety net of the designated hitter, enabling them to use Pujols, 31, in a less taxing role as he gets older.
The Marlins made Pujols a sizable financial offer, sources said, but lost their opportunity to sign him by declining to grant him a no-trade clause, adhering to a club policy that applies to players on multi-year contracts.
They blew their chance to keep Pujols by allowing him to reach free agency. They could have signed him to a contract extension long before he hit the market, and probably for far fewer dollars than he ultimately received. But they never completed such a deal.
The Angels, who jumped into the bidding late Tuesday night, were the unlikely beneficiary of the Cardinals’ inactivity.
That information about payroll restrictions that Angels officials supplied the reporters? It belonged on the funny pages, in a comic strip called “Masked Intentions.”
Most teams follow a similar script at this time of year, playing games with the truth and knowing all will be forgiven if a little white lie leads to a big score such as Pujols.
Logic would seem to dictate that the Angels cannot afford both Pujols and Wilson. But the better question might be: Why shouldn’t the Angels get both?
And for that matter, why shouldn’t they keep rather than trade righty Ervin Santana, who would become an $11.2 million fourth starter next season?
Here are four reasons why the Angels’ spending spree makes sense:
• The Angels, who won 86 games last season, are close to becoming a World Series contender.
The addition of Pujols will transform their lineup, though the Angels might trade first baseman Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 home runs last season. The addition of Wilson would provide a left-handed complement to the impressive trio of Weaver, Dan Haren and Santana.
• The Angels, according to the Times, are negotiating a new local TV contract.
Their current deal with Fox, which expires in 2015, provides $50 million in revenue per season. A new deal, fueled by the star power of Pujols and a successful team, could be worth far more.
• The Angels will face renewed competition in greater Los Angeles once the Dodgers are sold.
The Dodgers, under Frank McCourt, are not currently in position to sign a Pujols or even a Wilson. It would behoove the Angels to press their competitive advantage while they still have it.
• The Angels will gain $27 million in financial flexibility when the contracts of right fielder Torii Hunter and designated hitter Bobby Abreu expire after this season.
Even left fielder Vernon Wells’ deal will expire eventually. He will earn $21 million in each of the next three years, the first three years of Pujols’ contract.
Before the Pujols signing, the Angels’ commitments in 2013, ’14 and ’15 were set to drop from $48 million to $37.2 million to $18.2 million, according to the web site, Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Put it all together, and the signings of both Pujols, the best hitter on the market, and Wilson, the best starting pitcher on the market, make absolute sense.
This is more like it from Moreno, who previously failed in free-agent quests for left fielder Carl Crawford, left-hander CC Sabathia.
He didn’t strike out this time. He hit a home run.
Not bad for a guy who had only $15 million to $20 million to spend.