In case you have been under a rock today and didn’t hear the news, the Angels made two big acquisitions today, inking slugging 1b Albert Pujols to a 10-year $254 million contract and LHP CJ Wilson to a 5-year $77.5 million deal. After years of competing for but just coming up short on a number of big free agents, Arte Moreno and new GM Jerry DiPoto made the big splash that their fanbase has been awaiting for many years.
The Angels have been a constant thorn in the side of the Yankees throughout the Mike Scioscia era, and with the two new additions, they are likely to continue to plague the Yankees. The signing of Wilson adds depth and quality to an already strong rotation that includes Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana, making the prospect of facing this team in a short series a daunting one. The bullpen, featuring fireballing youngster Jordan Walden and lefty Scott Downs will be solid, and the lineup, previously a weak point, adds the future hall of famer Pujols to Yankee-killer Howie Kendrick, phenom Mike Trout, and speedster Peter Bourjos to make a nice core for years to come.
The signing of Wilson and Pujols has the potential to alter the balance of power in the AL West, where for the last few seasons the Rangers have been the top dog. After losing their top starter to a division rival, however, the Rangers will have serious pitching issues (though their lineup still can bring the thunder). While most observers assumed that the AL East would likely the top pennant contenders for the near future, the addition of two all-stars certainly makes the Angels at minimum a credible competitor with New York and Boston.
The new playoff format, which adds an extra wild card team to the mix, more or less maintains the status quo as far as making the playoffs from the AL East is concerned. While a premium will be placed on winning the division due to the new 1-game playoff between the wild card teams, the extra wild card spot seems to ensure that the Yankees will have a good shot to make the playoffs in every season.
The Angels’ signings may also affect the Yankees’ offseason strategy with regard to Yu Darvish. Texas has had significant reported interest in Darvish, and the loss of Wilson to a division rival may only increase their desperation to acquire the Japanese righty. If the Yankees are in fact very interested in Darvish (though Brian Cashman has downplayed such interest, which would be in the team’s interest), then they might have to consider raising their bid if they want to ensure that they beat out Texas.
The last few days have certainly livened up what has been up to this point a boring offseason, and I imagine the drama and intrigue are far from over. The Yankees are presumably involved in the Darvish sweepstakes and may have interest in Yoenis Cespedes as well. While Prince Fielder seems unlikely to wind up in New York or with a major rival, his progress will be interesting to follow nonetheless.
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