Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. I’m sure everyone knows what they have in common now, the only players who have ever hit three home runs in one World Series game. Ruth and Jackson are legends and hall of famers, and Pujols is well on his way to both of those accolades. Many consider Albert the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, but hitting three home runs in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, was still a shocking and incredible feat. Even if the Cardinals fail to win the World Series Pujols’ 5 for 6 three home run performance will go down in October lore. Pujols has had a historic career (Game 3 only adds to that), and many expect Pujols to sign an historic contract this offseason. Some experts have projected a $300 million deal (10 yrs/$30million), which would be the largest contract in baseball history. But, is Pujols (or any player for that matter) worth $30 million per season, and does his epic 3-run homer performance add to the money he would make in the deal?
According to Fangraphs’ “value” statistic for every win a players adds above his replacement (WAR), that is worth 4.5 million dollars per season on the open market. While, I believe this is an overestimation of value, it is based on statistics and is the best way to estimate if Pujols is worth $30 million a year. Thus, a player would have to accumulate 6.7 wins above his replacement, each season to be worth $30 million. Pujols has played in 11 major league seasons, and has had a WAR higher than 6.7 nine times, and in the two seasons he failed to reach 6.7, 2002 and 2011, he had a WAR of 6.0 and 5.1 respectively. Albert will be 32 years old at the start of next season, thus, a ten-year deal would mean he would still be making $30 million during a season in which he is 42 years old. So there is a question of if Pujols can keep up the same type of production into his forties. But Albert is durable, he has played over 140 games in each season of his career.
Thus, I feel as though a team would not be making a mistake in giving $300 million to Pujols, with all the information that is available. On average, over his career, Pujols has a WAR of 8 per season (which is clearly higher than 6.7). Even if he trends down an entire win per season, over the next ten years he still will be worth $30 million per season. Also, we must take into account the fact of inflation. 10 seasons ago, in 2002, 1 win above replacement was worth $2.5 million per season, to put that in perspective a player would need to have a WAR of 12 to be worth $30 million a year. I could estimate that in the final year of a ten-year contract (2021) one WAR will be worth around $6.5 million. Which is to say Pujols would only need to have a WAR of 4.6 at the end of the deal, for it to be a smart move for the team who signs him (Pujols has never had a season with a WAR below 4.6). It seems crazy to think any baseball player is worth $300 million, especially into their forties, but if there was any player worth it right now, Albert Pujols is your safest bet. Also, just to go back to his 3 home run performance, it was incredible and stuff of legend and may add some zeros onto his contract in people’s perception, but even without that occurrence Pujols is worth the money, he’ll inevitably be paid this offseason.