DALLAS: Three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols (pictured) and southpaw starting pitcher CJ Wilson have signed multi-million-dollar deals with the Los Angeles Angels.
The deals, coming on the final day of a Major League Baseball team owners’ meeting in Dallas, bring the American League West division club the two biggest prizes available on the off-season free agent market.
Former St Louis Cardinals slugger Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $250m while former Texas hurler Wilson inked a five-year contract for $77.5m.
“This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I couldn’t be more excited,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said.
Pujols battled an arm injury last season, but still smashed 37 home runs and batted in 99 runs with a .299 average in 2011, the worst in a career that included helping St Louis capture the World Series this year and in ’06.
Pujols has a career .328 batting average with 445 homers.
The 31-year-old Dominican first baseman received an offer to remain with the Cardinals and was wooed by the Miami Marlins.
Instead, he joined the Angels, who gave him a no-trade clause in his contract and made him the highest-paid first baseman in the major leagues.
Pujols became only the third player in World Series history to hit three homers in a single game, helping power the Cardinals’ remarkable last-season comeback to reach the play-offs and beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
The Angels signed Pujols to a 10-year deal despite the slugger’s decline in stats over the past three years.
“We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort,” Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said.
“Albert has spent many years operating at peak, and if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I don’t think we’ve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
The Cardinals offered Pujols a 10-year deal, but he chose to leave the World Series champs for sunny California.
“We’re disappointed,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt said. “I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen.”
In St Louis, the reaction was one of disbelief and anger. Security personnel were called in to guard a bronze statue of Pujols in the city.
One sports-store owner was so upset he decided to give away Pujols’ shirts and jerseys for free to customers. The jersey’s normally sell for $130.
“It’s not about the money, just like Albert said. Except he lied, and we didn’t,” store owner Paul Russo said.
Wilson went 16-7 for the Rangers last season with a 2.94 earned-run average after a league-high 34 starts in only his second campaign as a starter after five years working as a reliever.
“Last night was crazy,” Wilson said. “It was like minute-by-minute.”
Like Pujols, Wilson deal won’t become official until he passes a physical.
Angels owner Moreno paid only $184m to purchase the club in ’03.