Jerry Dipoto and the Angels Shock the baseball world

Who is Jerry Dipoto? I think that everyone mildly competent when it comes to baseball and the sports world knows that name by now (click for more info on the Angels GM). Because today, Thursday December 8th, 2011; Jerry Dipoto has shocked the baseball world. Dipoto has made five moves thus far, as the Los Angels Angels General Manager, and each one has been significant and has made him extremely popular. Strangely, people should not be shocked by those five moves he made, because he in fact stated that he would do exactly what he has done.

Dipoto’s Goals for the 2011 offseason (Based on an accumulation of articles):

-Improve hitting at catching position: Did this by trading for Chris Iannetta and moving Jeff Mathis to Toronto

-Give Mike Scioscia more options at the back of the bullpen and to help Jordan Walden develop: Accomplished this by signing Latroy Hawkins

-Acquire the best starting pitcher he could find: Signed top free agent starter CJ Wilson

-If he could accomplish all three of those, would like to try and acquire a hitter who would approve the team’s OBP: Signed Albert Pujols and his career .420 OBP

So why are people shocked about what the Angels and Dipoto have done? He accomplished all the goals of the offseason, like he said he would. The reason people are shocked is because many believed for some time that the Angels pursuit of CJ Wilson was a "smokescreen" and an attempt to drive up his price, so he would not return to division rival Texas. Another reason, these moves were surprising is the Angels were a non-factor in the Pujols negotiations up until two days ago, because of quotes such as, "I don't particularly think it's the right way to go… I'd like to say we'll pursue Pujols, we'll pursue Fielder. It's not logical. It's also not logical to rule it out. It would be a pleasant surprise,” Dipoto said.

Also, the Angels owner, Arte Moreno, stated that they would cap their payroll at $140 million (the same as 2011), which gave Dipoto about 15-20 million dollars to work with (not enough to sign Pujols). Yet, here we stand, the Marlins were all thebuzz at the beginning of the winter meetings, but the Angels swooped in stole the entire show. So, did Jerry Dipoto, a supposed “Moneyball” guy, get caught up in his new big-market setting and drastically misallocate over $330 million or did he make the right moves based on the metrics he holds so dear?

During the World Series, after Pujols’ mammoth performance in Game 3 (3 home runs in one game), I did a partial analysis of a 10-year/$300 million deal, and said that he would be worth that type of contract. But now, I’d like to go into a full analysis of the contract he signed and its worth/what it truly means.

Based on Fangraphs’ linear dollar per WAR, the basic inflation rate is that dollars per win inflates on a 5% per year basis. According to this model, in 2012 each WAR a player attributes to his team is worth $5 million, and at the end of Pujols’ contract one WAR will be worth $7.76 million. Thus, based on Pujols’ $25.4 million AAV over the length of the contract, he would need to accumulate 41.2 wins for the Angels over the ten years of the contract for it to be an even win-win. In the 11 seasons of his career, Pujols has a total WAR of 88, good for an average of 8.8 wins per season. If the Angels signed the Albert Pujols in 2001 instead of 2011, and you subtracted one average season off his total numbers, then Pujols would have a total WAR of 79.2 wins over the course of his new contract. This number would be worth $553 million over the course of this contract. Now, I don’t think anyone (even the biggest of Angels fans) would think Pujols will be as great as he was in his 20’s, as he’ll be in his 30’s and early 40’s. However, for all intents and purposes Los Angeles does not need him to be. Pujols only needs to average a WAR of 4.12, while playing in Anaheim, this is 46.8% of the production he has produced in his career. Pujols has never had a season below 5 wins, and in only two seasons of the eleven he has played has his WAR been below 7. If Pujols is less than half as good as he is now (on average), the 10-year contract could still bring a return of the entire money spent on him.

Albert Pujols is the best player in the game today, if not the best to ever play the game. In 10 of his 11 seasons of his career, Pujols would have lead the Angels in WAR (Howie Kendrick had a higher WAR than Pujols in 2011), and in each season of his career Pujols would have been the Angels team leader in both offensive categories wRC+ and wOBA. In 2011, the Angels ranked 11th in team WAR (24.2) and 21st in team OBP (.314), Pujols comes in with a career .420 on-based percentage. Dipoto wanted to add more on-base percentage to his team and Pujols does just that for him. Some are shocked the Angels added Pujols because they already have first baseman Mark Trumbo, and former star Kendrys Morales. However, Morales’ health is a question still, and according to Dipoto today, Trumbo can DH, and possibly play third or corner outfield. The best seasons for Morales (3.4 WAR) and Trumbo (2.3 WAR) are significantly lower than Pujols’ worst season (5.1 WAR). This also gives Dipoto more options and trade chips along the way to continue adding and retooling to build a ballclub around Albert.

Speaking of trade chips, the Angels now have a surplus of starting pitching (2011 WAR in parethenses); of Jered Weaver (5.6), Dan Haren (6.4), CJ Wilson (5.9), Ervin Santana (3.2), and various options for a fifth starter. With Santana becoming a free agent in 2013, his $11.2 million salary would be an enticing piece to move. But, Dipoto could stand pat and have a rotation that rivaled the 2011 Phillies rotation, quite possibly the best of all time. Let’s say Dipoto stops making all of these moves and their rotation looks the same as it does today on opening day, will CJ Wilson reap the benefits of his $77.5 million deal or will the former reliever sour in the California sun?

Wilson has only been a starter for two seasons and is over 30 years old, which makes some wary of giving him a long-term contract. But, the Angels were able to get him for less years and less money than others (Marlins) had offered him, and were able to sign him for less than Jered Weaver’s (5yr/$85 million) contract. In 2010 (his first year as a starter), Wilson ranked 17th in WAR (4.6) and in 2011 he ranked 7th among pitchers in WAR (5.9). Wilson performed this well in a hitter’s park in Texas, the move to a pitcher’s park like Anaheim, will only benefit him. The same model I used earlier to project Pujols’ worth, can be applied to Wilson’s contract. Wilson would only need to accumulate 14.1 wins to make up the $77.5 million during this contract, and in just the last two seasons he had 10.5 WAR. I’d say its fairly safe to assume he’ll surpass the 14.1 WAR. Based off his last three seasons (one being in the bullpen) a modest projection for his WAR next season would be 4.2. Fangraphs projects his WAR to be 4.3. Let’s say he regresses half a win per season for the contract, he would be worth $87 million and only be not worth is annual salary of $15.5 million in the final season of his contract.

Thus by projections, Dipoto made the correct moves in bringing in Pujols and Wilson, so what are the concerns? The first concern is that the Angels cannot sustain their payroll; which will now be in the $170-80 million range. However, Moreno has money to spend, and the Angels average an attendance of higher than 3 million good for number 5 in baseball in each of the last three seasons. Adding the best player in baseball and an all-star starter who grew up in So. Cal will only cause their attendance to rise, not to mention jersey sales, Pujols bobbleheads, etc. Another factor to consider is that the Angels are renogtiating their TV contract with FOX. Currently they receive $50 million from FOX per season, this number is expected to triple under the new deal, that is caused mainly by the Dodgers ownership issues. Also, Pujols currently sits at 445 career home runs, which means he’ll hit his 500th home run (most likely his 600th as well) in an Angels’ uniform. The amount of media attention and revenue that comes along with reaching that type of milestone(s), will be incredible. The Angels also have a ton of money coming off their payroll after the 2013 season, with Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Chris Ianetta and Howie Kendrick becoming free agents. That would bring somewhere over $60 million off their payroll for 2013. There’s a chance if they don’t resign Abreu and Hunter they can reuse that money to resign Santana, Kendrick, Haren, and possibly Ianetta if Hank Conger hasn’t developed as much as they’d like, and keep the payroll exactly where it stands currently.

A second concern is that; the development and playing time of the Angels’ young stars will be hindered by the current logjam of veterans. I’m not sure how adding one player would hamper that much of the playing time of Conger, Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, and Mike Trout. These players are still very young, early in development and impatient. Dipoto claims to want to improve on base percentage, and these four players averaged a combined walk rate of 6.4% and on base percentage of .295, last season. These numbers are below average, but who better to learn plate discipline from than the likes of Abreu and Pujols? Having such esteemed veteran (hall of fame) hitters to learn from can only be a good thing for these players’ developments.

The final concern is that spending all this money hasn’t made the Angels good enough to compete and win the World Series, this season. With all of those players I mentioned earlier, becoming free agents in 2013, 2012 will be a big season to see if Dipoto’s new direction for the Angels is a feasible working plan. So I aggregated the Fangraphs’ projected WAR’s for the Angels roster in 2012 to see how those numbers matched up with the top teams of 2011. Fangraphs projects the Angels hitters to have a team WAR of 36.9, which would have been 3rd in the majors, behind only Texas and Boston last season. While, the pitching staff projects to have a team WAR of 20.6 in 2012. This WAR would have left them just outside the top 5 last season, behind the Phillies, White Sox, Yankees, Giants, and Rangers. If you combined the WAR’s the only team with a higher 2011 WAR, then the Angels projected 2012, would be the Texas Rangers who were one strike away from being the World Series champions twice in 2011. Thus, the 2012 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have all of the talent to be a World Series winner on paper.

The firing of Tony Reagins got the ball rolling for this offseason. Once Moreno hired Dipoto the dominoes began to fall, and the Angels have taken the baseball world by storm. The best player in baseball now resides in Souther California out of nowhere; and I think it’s safe to say Pujols and the Angels will own the LA market, the American League West, and possibly all of baseball.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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