Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton were the two hottest free agents of the 2012 and 2013 free agent classes, respectively. To the surprise of most observers, both of the slugging superstars landed in southern California with mega-deals with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Each year, after the team inked the star player, media members and analysts proclaimed the Angels the favorites in the American League West division. Of course, both years, the Angels fell flat and were nowhere near playoff contention come September. Much of the failure of the team could be attributed to the lackluster performance of both signings – Pujols struggled in his first year and was injured in the second, while Hamilton has had a career worst season in 2013 despite improvement over the last six weeks of the year.
Costly Mistakes Thus Far
With countless millions tied up in these two players for many seasons to come, the Angels fortunes seem to be tied to the turnaround of Pujols and Hamilton. While they have a young superstar in Mike Trout, the LA Angels have made such an investment in the two former stars that there seems to be no way for the team to succeed without production from two of the highest paid players in baseball. As the years go by, it seems more and more unlikely that either of these two will ever be the players they once were.
For those considering the value of their collections of Pujols or Hamilton memorabilia, their current struggles can’t be seen as good news. While Albert’s place in the Hall of Fame seems secure, he is doing serious damage to his place in history with a combination of poor production and injuries. Likewise, Hamilton is fading fast and not nearly the commodity he once was. While pieces that represent Pujols in a Cardinals uniform or Hamilton as a Ranger should be safe, both players in Angels garb are not yet as desirable. Of course, if 2014 sees a return to form for one or both of them, that story could quickly change.
Is There Hope in L.A.?
What will it take for them to turn it around? For Pujols, recovering from a painful foot condition is the first step. After that, he needs to be allowed to DH in order to keep his body fresh. If Pujols is able to come into spring training healthy and slot in as the Angels everyday DH, he very well could return to his formidable self. When it comes to Hamilton, he will need a strong start to 2014 to get the fans on his side. When Hamilton got off to a poor start in 2013, after signing a huge contract, he was booed by fans and had trouble turning it around. Getting out quickly next April, which will probably mean laying off some bad pitches, could get the fans in his corner and get the ball rolling for a great year.
For all of the attention that free agent signings get each off season, they often don’t play that large of a role when the season rolls around. Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols were both major moves by the Angels – and neither has paid off. Will they turn it around and live up to their lofty contracts? Only time will tell.