Inside the Phillies: Pujols deal helps Phillies

Posted: December 09, 2011

DALLAS - The best news for the Phillies at these winter meetings really had little to do with them.

When general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. awoke Thursday morning, the biggest news of this baseball offseason was breaking: Albert Pujols had agreed to a 10-year deal worth between $250 and $260 million with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The impact was not lost on Amaro.

"If that's the case, I'm glad he's out of our league," the Phillies general manager said.

Only two general managers in the National League would disagree with that sentiment.

One, of course, is John Mozeliak. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals general manager left the Hilton Anatole and headed home without comment about losing the franchise's most iconic position player since Stan Musial.

Silence really did speak volumes in this case.

Miami Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest also had to feel at least a little jilted after making eye contact with and no doubt buying Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, a drink here in Dallas.

There were more than a few people here Tuesday night who thought the Marlins were going to follow up the signings of closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes by persuading the 31-year-old Pujols to join the beautiful people in South Beach, too.

Instead, the Marlins settled for the addition of pitcher Mark Buehrle, a veteran lefty who strengthens their starting rotation. Pujols, of course, would have given the Marlins the most dangerous lineup in the league and made new-look Miami an imminent threat to the Phillies' string of five straight National League East titles.

Amaro made the point that the Phillies' division will still be among baseball's best even without the added presence of baseball's best player.

"The Marlins have been extremely aggressive, and they already had a pretty good, young team," he said. "To add what they've done, they'll be a significant challenge for us, no question about it."

The Cardinals are not in the Phillies' division, but they were the obstacle that caused the Phillies to stumble and fall short of their pursuit of a World Series title last season.

Instant analysis will say the Angels are now the favorites to replace the Cardinals as World Series champions in 2012, and they sure look good, especially after also signing free-agent lefty C.J. Wilson away from their division rival Texas Rangers.

Wilson, 31, signed a five-year, $75-million deal and will be part of a starting rotation that also includes Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana. That quartet of starters might end up being the biggest reason the Angels regain the top spot in the American League West for the first time since 2009.

Surely, the Rangers, after losing the last two World Series, have to be almost as dejected as the Cardinals about what the Angels did on the final day of these meetings, and it all happened on Texas' home turf, too.

The Angels and their fans have to feel similar to the way Phillies fans felt when Amaro signed Cliff Lee last winter.

"This was a really good fit for our franchise, and I believe it's an excellent fit for the players we're talking about," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "We're talking about an iconic offensive player of his generation, for sure, and we're talking about an ace-type starting pitcher who has pitched on back-to-back American League championship clubs. I feel like the two of them, in addition to what we have in place with the Angels, will give us a very unique opportunity."

With Prince Albert off to California, the next free-agent domino that figures to fall is Prince Fielder. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals get involved in that bidding as they try to replace Pujols. Fielder isn't quite as good as Pujols, but he is younger, and he would make sure that the Cardinals still had the best offense in baseball.

The Pujols deal had some indirect impact on the Phillies, too.

Pujols' deal was basically twice the amount and length of the five-year, $125-million deal the Phillies gave to Ryan Howard in 2010. At this moment, that looks like a better deal for Howard than the Phillies, but it's actually impossible to judge. The clock on Howard's deal does not start ticking until the 2012 season begins. You can debate what the value will become, but that's it.

With Pujols signed, Lozano will now also have more time to negotiate with the Phillies or any other team that might be interested in shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

The assumption for most of this offseason is that Rollins' value is greater in Philadelphia than it is anywhere else, which means he'll probably have to settle for less than the five-year deal he said he was seeking at the end of the season.

It's possible that the Cardinals go after Rollins, but you have to wonder if their relationship with Lozano is a little fractured after his most prized client shunned St. Louis.

Rollins tweeted his hearty congratulations to Pujols.

"Happy for him and Icon Sports Group," the last part of the tweet read.

A lot of people in the National League are happy Pujols now works in the other league. It remains to be seen how happy the Phillies and Rollins will be when this offseason finally comes to an end.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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