Albert Pujols. (Getty Images)
Albert Pujols (US PRESSWIRE)
By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY
DALLAS - In one of the most stunning series of player moves in recent baseball history, the Los Angeles agreed to terms Thursday morning with first baseman Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson.
Pujols, who won three MVP awards and two World Series championships while crafting a Cardinals legacy to rival Stan Musial, left the reigning champions of baseball for a 10-year contract worth around $255 million, according to a person involved in the negotiations, who requested anonymity because Pujols must pass a physical for the deal to be final.
Wilson, arguably the top pitcher on the free-agent market, left the defending AL champion Rangers for a five-year deal between $70 million and $75 million, according to multiple news media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times.
Pujols' deal, which includes a no-trade clause, will be among the most lucrative in baseball history. Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million with the Texas Rangers before the 2001 season and another 10-year deal, this time with the New York Yankees in 2007 for $275 million.
Pujols and his agent, Dan Lozano, had been engaged in negotiations throughout the winter meetings, first with the Cardinals and Marlins and then with the Angels. The Cardinals offered him a nine-year contract for about $195 million early in spring training, but the slugger turned it down and ended talks until the season was over.
The Cardinals improved on that offer this week, but the Angels came in late Wednesday and finished the deal Thursday.
"Congratulations to Anaheim," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. "It just makes it that much more difficult for everyone in our division."
Pujols, 31, was the National League's Rookie of the Year in 2001 and its Most Valuable Player in 2005, 2008 and 2009. The Cardinals made the playoffs in seven of Pujols' 11 seasons, winning World Series championships in 2006 and 2011.
Wilson, 31, is 31-15 with a 3.14 ERA since converting from a reliever to starter before the 2010 season, helping lead the Rangers to two consecutive World Series. Last season, he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. His 206 strikeouts were also sixth in the AL.
Wilson was born in Newport Beach, Calif., and played baseball at Fountain Valley (Calif.) High.
"Going back to where you're from is a difficult opportunity to turn down," said Wilson, according to the Orange County (Calif.) Register.
Here are two more Wilson quotes from the Register:
On the Rangers, his former team: "I just want fans to know if things were a lot closer (the amount and years on the contract), it might have been a more difficult decision."
On the Marlins, who offered more money: "If it was about money, I'd be a Florida Marlin."
The Angels have tried in recent years to lure free agents such as Carl Crawford and Mark Teixeira only to lose out to the Red Sox and Yankees. But with a new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, and renewed commitment from owner Arte Moreno, they have been one of the most aggressive teams at the winter meetings.
"I love this game. We have the Machine!!" tweeted Angels outfielder Vernon Wells about Pujols.
Pujols gives the Angels a force for the middle of their lineup and a player to market throughout Southern California. The Angels, according to the Los Angeles Times, are negotiating a new local TV contract. According to The Times, their current deal with Fox, which expires in 2015, provides $50 million in revenue per season. Pujols' presence could drive up the price of a new deal to much higher than that.
In addition, the team continues to compete for attention and fans with their neighbors to the north, the Dodgers, whom owner Frank McCourt is selling in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The Angels ranked 10th in the American League in runs last season, instead relying on a top-ranked pitching staff to lead them to 86 wins. However, they still fell short of the Rangers in the AL West for the second year in a row.
"Anaheim has always been a very good club and they're going to continue to have one of the better teams in the AL," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.
In St. Louis, Pujols will leave a gaping void after putting together an unparalleled first 11 seasons, hitting 445 home runs with a .328 batting average, .420 on-base percentage and lifetime OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of 1.037.
After the Cardinals came back to defeat the Rangers in an epic seven-game World Series, Pujols reiterated his desire to return to St. Louis and both he and the club expressed optimism that a deal could be reached.
"When you hear the dollars and the years, you have to listen," Zduriencik said. "It's a tremendous deal for him. ... Anaheim fans should be happy today."
Prior to the Angels' flourish Thursday morning, the Marlins had been the attention-grabbers of the winter meetings, signing prize free agent shortstop Jose Reyes and closer Heath Bell.
One team that has been quiet at the winter meetings -- and this offseason -- has been the Yankees, who have the majors' highest payroll ($202 million on opening day last year).
"You should do what you're willing to do regardless of outside stimuli," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Just because someone else did something doesn't all of a sudden change your focus. It doesn't mean we have to, all of a sudden, throw more chips on the table."
Cashman told MLB.com he passed on a chance to talk to Pujols when he heard from the slugger's camp.
"They touched base with me, but I said no," Cashman said. "I gave it a nice, respectful no. We've made our commitments, we have guys we're committed to, and ... even though you can say he can fit on anybody's club, realistically our money is spent in those directions. Trying to add that, how do you add that, with our commitments? You just can't, it's not feasible."
Contributing: Seth Livingstone