Free agent spurns Angels, but there's one left

Published Dec. 10, 2010 10:07 a.m. ET

(Editor's note: Almost a year to the day — Dec. 10, 2010 — Matt "Money" Smith outlined in this space why Albert Pujols would sign with the Halos. Obviously, he over-projected the deal — 10 years and $300 million — but we will let him off the hook on that one. Also, he failed to mention the Marlins would be serious bidders for Pujols' services, but who could have seen that one coming? Other than that, the author was — pardon the pun — on the 'Money.")

Ten years, $300 million. Reading those numbers on your computer is one thing, but say it out loud and really let it soak in. 10 years, $300 million. It's a completely ridiculous thought. It's a picnic on Neptune, dinner at the center of the Earth, and breakfast the next morning on the surface of the Sun. Albert Pujols should be plan A, plan B, plan C and plan D from this moment on for the Los Angeles Angels. For a team that struck out on Mark Teixiera two years ago, missed on Carl Crawford this year, there is but one answer to the question Arte Moreno has been asking since he purchased this team (for $180 million by the way, $120 million less dollars than I'm advocating he give a single player exactly one year from now).

PHOTOS:How would Pujols look in an Angels Jersey?

Straight up Jeopardy! style, the answer is Albert Pujols. If you haven't figured out the question I'll play Alex Trebek and give it to you. How do the Angels become relevant in Los Angeles? Albert freaking Pujols, that's how. So far they've tried to do it by changing the city the team represents from Anaheim to Los Angeles, they lowered beer prices, and even managed to pull in north of three million fans every season. It's a great effort, but not one that's caused this to cease being a Dodgers town.

Arte Moreno is a businessman. He's a billionaire businessman. If you got him a little liquored up, and he let his guard down, I'm sure he'd tell you the story of how he coaxed Infinity Broadcasting to buy his Outdoor Systems for a cool $8 billion. That was his moment. Every entrepreneur or successful CEO has one. The precise time when everything changed, when they realized there was an opportunity that had to be taken consequences be dammed, because they believed in the damn consequences. Taking that chance worked out for Moreno once before, and unless the Cardinals figure out how to lock up the best baseball player alive in the next 10 weeks, Albert Pujols is going to hit free agency.

What makes it Moreno's moment and not every other owner in baseball that has a checkbook? For once, thanks to recent commitments, the Red Sox (Adrian Gonzalez) and Yankees (Mark Teixeira) are likely to sit this one out eliminating the two franchises that will overspend with absolutely zero regard to the move's financial sense. The Phillies have Ryan Howard; the Mets are a complete mess, leaving just one big market team with serious cash to spend as their lone competition-the Chicago Cubs. Were it any other player I might give the thought some credence, but this is Albert Pujols we're talking about. Born in Santo Domingo, raised in Independence, MO, and the founder of the Pujols Family Foundation. He would never leave the Cardinals for their most bitter rival no matter how much more they were willing to pay him.

That means the only team that can compete with the Angels is the Cardinals themselves. St. Louis certainly has an emotional advantage as he's the face of that organization, and could go down as the greatest Cardinal of all time should he finish his career there. But financially Los Angeles is in a much better position to deliver Albert his true market value. The Cardinals can produce only so much revenue, and looking at the numbers it doesn't appear to be enough to afford a $30 million per year salary to one single player.

It's also Moreno's moment because of the current situation surrounding the Dodgers. You'd be hard pressed to find a casual Dodgers fan that isn't just a little concerned with the current state of ownership. With a mega signing that could very well be lead to some heads to pop on down the 5 freeway to take in a couple games, or flip the channel from one Fox Sports West property to another were the teams playing at the same time to catch a glimpse of the most prolific hitter of his generation.

Watching how Moreno negotiates there's very little emotion involved. He crunches the numbers, determines a single player's value and offers him that figure. No more, no less. If the player agrees with his assessment they have a deal, if he does not, they don't. It's why he gets so incensed when the Yankees outbid him by $20 million dollars a couple seasons ago and the Red Sox went $45 million higher this year. The numbers don't make any sense to the guy.

For a franchise that is currently valued by Forbes at over $500 million, but can't get over that big money local revenue hump, there's only one answer out there. Carl Crawford isn't bringing in $21 million of revenue a season. Adrian Beltre isn't selling you $15 million worth of tickets and pulling in ratings in his second go around in Southern California. But you ask the question. How do the Angels become relevant in Los Angeles? and there's a two word answer worth $300 million-Albert Pujols.