Well, there goes the neighborhood. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made huge, yes huge news on Thursday with the signing of free agent 1B Albert Pujols. The Angels also upgraded their already strong starting rotation with the addition of C.J. Wilson as well. Let me tell you, moves like these change everything.
For the cash-strapped Athletics, the news of Pujols coming to their division is not something that warrants any type of celebration. If you’re an A’s fan, this Pujols deal most likely makes you cringe. If you’re an Angels fan, though, you’re probably jumping up and down with joy.
The signings of Pujols and Wilson catapult the Angels, in my mind, to the top of the AL West. The whole structure of the division is set to undergo a massive change, with the Rangers, A’s, and Mariners now having to prepare to face baseball’s best player in Pujols throughout the season.
For Oakland, things couldn’t get much worse. Well, I guess it could. MLB and Bud Selig could deny the team’s bid for a new stadium in San Jose, but at least that hasn’t happened, yet. For the AL West, things could become very interesting in the next few years.
The Houston Astros, currently a part of the National League, will be coming over to the AL West in 2013, which will increase the size of the division to five teams. Those poor Astros, what have they gotten themselves into?
This is significant, in my mind anyway, because it means the Angels and Rangers will just have one more team to push around in the division. They’re obviously, without question, the top dogs in the AL West at the moment. The A’s, meanwhile, are left to wonder when they’ll receive a decision regarding their bid for a new stadium.
While Pujols’ numbers have been on a steady decline over the past three years or so, he’s still baseball’s best player and he’s still a reliable “machine” on offense. He currently has an 11 year streak with 30 or more home runs in a season. He hit .299/.366/.541 with 37 HR and 99 RBIs. Not bad for a “down” year.
If nothing, the Pujols deal makes the A’s look extremely bare over at first base. The A’s have a few options for their seemingly wide-open spot at first, but those options pale in comparison to the megastar Pujols. Chris Carter, Daric Barton, and Brandon Allen are currently in the mix for the A’s first-base spot, but none of those guys carry the same level of respect at the plate like Pujols.
It’s frustrating, too, for A’s fans to see all of these events unfold while the green-and-gold remain quiet. We all long for the day when Oakland is able to start signing checks like the Angels and Marlins, but without a clear stadium solution, we’re left to continue our pointless dreaming. These signings, in a way, force the rest of the division to reinvent themselves, too.
The Rangers, the division’s top dog for the past two years, will likely find it rather difficult to repeat as division champs for a third-straight season in 2012. The Angels, having added Pujols and Wilson, will give the Rangers a run for their money at the very least. They didn’t finish too far behind the Rangers this season, but with Pujols, the Angels should find themselves right along side the Rangers in ’12.
The A’s, meanwhile, will need to undergo a massive overhaul in the coming years if they wish to make any sort of a run in what I now regard as Pujols’ division. This offseason figures to be the beginning of yet another rebuilding phase for Billy Beane’s Athletics, with much of his young talent considered “available” for trade.
Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill among others are drawing interest from around the league, so it’ll be up to Beane to shake up his team for the better in this now completely different AL West division.