Albert Pujols vs Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder got his monster contract after all. While I have my suspicions, I can’t prove that Fielder “Tonya Harding-ed” Victor Martinez but it did work out in Fielder’s benefit. After Martinez tore his ACL, the Tigers emerged from near mystery team status to sign Fielder to a 9-year, $214 million deal. For the near future, Angels fans can rejoice in not having to face the big slugger as a Ranger.
Fielder and Albert Pujols entered the offseason as Keith Law’s number one and two free agents (Insider), respectively. There are concerns for both considering the enormous amount of cash their employers owe them. Fielder, 28 in May, is a rather large man and his body type isn’t one that typically ages well in sports or for getting off the couch. Fielder is no great shakes at first base either and has no interest in DH-ing even if it is in his future. He also hits right handers at a much better clip than against the southpaws
Pujols. Well, Pujols is freshly 32-years-old and 42-year-olds are rarely worth $30 million. But by 2021, there might be some massive inflation after hoverboards finally hit the market. Pujols has a bit of injury history (tendinitis) but only missed time in 2011 due to a freak arm fracture. His age is the big red flag.
Pujols and Fielder received massive deals with similar AAVs ($24MM-$23.8MM) and both will probably fail to live up to them over the long haul. But Arte Moreno and Mike Ilitch have already spent their billboard and pizza money, so who would you have rather have given the $200 million? This begins the WAR (wins above replacement) segment of the post.
In 2011, Pujols’ worst season was just about equal to Fielder’s second best season. With a five year age gap, it’s a knee jerk reaction to think that Fielder will eventually start to pass Pujols on that WAR grid. However, considering the body types and eventual move to DH for Fielder, Pujols might sustain a higher level of value even during an earlier-in-the-contract decline phase. Pujols is an outstanding fielder at first base which is currently underrated, by some, as a defensive position.
Pujols is a machine too so I’m not sure it’s fair to slap a normal aging curve on him. By age 31, Pujols has already out-WARed the careers of his contemporary Hall-of-Fame-ish fisrt baseman.
In their age 40 seasons, Jim Thome and Frank Thomas were still useful hitters. When healthy. And just as designated hitters. So it’s not hard to dream on Pujols still being a capable hitter at 42 in 2021. Can you have that same dream for Fielder at age 36? Especially if his platoon split against lefties continues?
We’ve reached the point of the post where you can accuse me of stearing this in Pujols’ favor. It is an Angels blog. And I expect Fielder will have a few seasons that he out WAR(P)s Pujols over the next nine years. For the duration of the contracts though? Give me Pujols.
Baseball-Reference agrees with me according to whatever formula they use to determine page sponsorship values. Both players’ page are available. It’ll cost you $3,560 to sponsor Pujols and $1,120 for Fielder. By that math, Pujols is at least worth 3X more than Fielder. Science’d.