Major League Baseball is going to have a second Wild Card soon. The two Wild Cards will face off in the new first round of the playoffs -- they are something of a playoffs before the playoffs, but still actually the postseason -- and the winner gets to advance to their league's respective Division Series.
For a Red Sox team that just missed the playoffs two years in a row, this is exciting news. But as Ben Buchanan pointed out, there are some problems, as it makes the division even more important going forward. That does make the regular season more exciting, of course, and more meaningful games year round (emotionally, not mathematically) makes for a more memorable season, too.
The reason to bring this up? Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the top hitter and pitcher on this year's free agent market, have both signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols signed a mega 10-year, $250 million deal that seems like a massive risk (and it is), but there are reasons to believe it will be okay, too, assuming he doesn't get severely injured. The $25 million is something of an underpay (or right on target) for Pujols, depending on if he is a five win or better player going forward. If he's a six-win player for a bit, he'll make up value he might not provide later. But then again, 2012 dollars are not the same as 2020 dollars, so inflation can take care of some of the sting of the later years.
(For more on the history of 10-year deals in the majors, you can check out my piece from Baseball Nation earlier this week.)
He's one of the best, if not still the best, players in baseball at present, either way. His 2011 season was the "worst" of his career, and he hit .299/.366/.541 with 37 homers... after suffering a broken wrist. That kept him out for the minimum on the 15-day DL. Pujols is closer to Cylon than he is human, and if you had to bet on someone actually being worth a 10-year deal, it would be him. Plus, in the AL, he can DH if he needs to eventually. That being said, he's one of the best defensive first baseman out there, and still lines up at third occasionally, so this might not even be necessary until the very end.
The left-handed Wilson is real good, but he needs the proper context to thrive to his full potential. Boston and New York, as offense-heavy parks in tough divisions, didn't quite fit the bill. You can't say the same for the Angels, though, given it's the same weak-hitting division he has succeeded in, in front of a high-quality defense, and in a pitcher's park that is especially tough on right-handers. (For more on Wilson in his new digs, Baseball Nation has you covered once again.)
He gives the Angels a rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, himself, Ervin Santana, and Jerome Williams. That's absolutely ridiculous. There have been murmurs that Santana would be dealt should the Angels acquire Wilson, but even so, Weaver, Haren, Wilson, Williams is a force to be reckoned with -- especially since the Angels can hit a bit. Not like Wilson's Rangers, but enough.
With both the Rangers and Angels legitimate contenders out west, and the Yankees, Rays, and likely Blue Jays making more noise in the future, the Red Sox have their work cut out for them. It makes the journey far more enjoyable, but we might not love the destination.