Albert Pujols has signed a 10-year, $250 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Anaheim California Angels of Los Anaheim. Wow. The deal, which includes a full no-trade clause, may be worth even more. Baseball and logic figured that 31-(ish?)-year-old Albert would return to St. Louis, where he’s played for 10 years and won two World Series. But funny things happen during free agency when big money gets thrown around.
Sports Illustrated calls the deal a “stunner” and ESPN describes it as a “shock.” There’s been several more surprising deals over the past couple years, either because of the way it went down, the amount of money involved or because of the teams involved. Let’s revisit the five biggest.
5. Steve Smith to the Eagles
This signing wasn’t as high profile as the others, although Steve Smith did make the Pro Bowl as a Giant, but Smith to Philly‘s Dream Team was puzzling because fans and insiders assumed that Smith would return to New York. Also, in this case, Smith’s agent apparently didn’t even give the Giants an opportunity to counter the Eagles’ offer and, after all, isn’t the purpose of an agent to negotiate?
4. Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils
New Jersey was a dark horse to land the then-Thrashers winger, in part because he didn’t exactly fit the Devils system and in part because the team isn’t known for spending the kind of money they shelled out for Kovalchuk. This deal was also very WTF because the NHL rejected the 17-year, $102 million contract, finding that the structure of the agreement circumvented league salary cap limitations. Eventually, the Devils restructured the deal, and then Kovalchuk hugely disappointed in his first season. In a nutshell: this.
3. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay to the Phillies
Credit: Sports Illustrated
How lucky can one team get? How shocked was Joe Blanton that they included him in this picture? After Roy Halladay signed with the Phillies in 2010 (actually in December 2009), no one expected Philly to bring Lee back in 2011 after they had rented him for the playoff run in 2009, simply because they’d already spent a fortune on Halladay, would have to spend more to lock up their own guys; there were no signs that Philly was even in contention and because Lee probably could have gotten a lot more money from the Yankees. But Lee went for comfort and company over the cash. His family won’t starve on at least $120 million guaranteed, though.
2. Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears
After three statistically-impressive seasons in Denver, no Broncos fan had a reason to believe that Cutler wouldn’t remain a Denver staple for years to come. That is, until Josh McDaniels came to town, explored bring in the Patriots’ Matt Cassel as an option. Cutler’s feelings were hurt, he demanded a trade, and ultimately got shipped to Chicago. Bears fans celebrated finally getting a “franchise” quarterback, and perpetuated the magical mystery tour that brought Kyle Orton to the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. LeBron takes his talents South Beach
This was so surprising because 1) LeBron‘s free agency tour was basically a total farce, as he’d already settled on the Heat 2) no one really saw Miami as a possible destination, at least not in the early going 3) The Decision and 4) The Decision. LeBron’s playoff choke was not surprising.