The Los Angeles Angels stole the thunder on Thursday at the major league baseball winter meetings by landing free agent first basement Albert Pujols with a 10-year $254 million contract. Outside of all of the hoopla surrounding the second highest contract in major league baseball history being awarded or the fact that the team gave a 10-year contract to a player that turns 32 in January, the most pressing question is what this means from a fantasy baseball perspective.
The latest news was that Kendrys Morales was coming along from his second ankle surgery and was expected to be ready to start the season on time. At just 28 years of age, when healthy he was expected to be one of the building blocks for the Angels offense. Now with Pujols in the fold, Morales or Pujols figures to spend time at designated hitter. There are a few issues with that scenario however. One is that Bobby Abreu is penciled in as the designated hitter since the Angels outfield is already full and two, we haven’t even talked about Mark Trumbo yet who hit 29 home runs in his rookie season. Trumbo has played first base and outfield in the minor leagues so unless the team can convert him into a third basemen, he looks like trade bait for now if Morales is healthy.
Next year the Angels shed the contracts of Hunter and Abreu when they become free agents so they will have holes in 2012, though top prospect Mike Trout will take one of those spots. For fantasy league owners in keeper leagues that own Trout and were expecting value from him in 2012, that doesn’t look like that is going to happen unless a series of cataclysmic events occur.
The Angels also added left-handed starting pitcher C.J. Wilson with a five-year $77.5 million contract. The move helps to bolster a solid rotation that already features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana as well as it takes away one of the top pitchers from their division rival, the Texas Rangers.
New general manager Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs has found a replacement for free agent Aramis Ramirez by acquiring third basemen Ian Stewart and relief pitcher Casey Weathers from the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder D.J. LeMahieu. The recent signing of David DeJesus made Colvin expendable for the Cubs in the outfield. Stewart, a career .236 hitter, is hoping that a fresh start will help to get his career back on track. While his power numbers were not much different on the road compared to at home in Coors Field, the one noticeable difference was his splits in strikeout rates. In his career, Stewart fanned 27.7% of the time at home and 35.8% of the time on the road which does not bode well for any type of success in the batting average department unless he can rework his swing.
On the Rockies side, getting Colvin opens the doors for the team to move Seth Smith in a trade to bolster another part of the roster. With Eric Young Jr. and Ryan Spillborghs already in reserve, Colvin has little value unless Smith or Dexter Fowler is moved in a deal. At third base, Colorado has Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco and top prospect Nolan Arenado that will compete to replace Stewart.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a one-year contract. He doesn’t present much of an upgrade at the plate; low average with a little bit of pop, but he is better defensively and has more range than Yuniesky Betancourt showed last season.