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The Winter Meetings A(lbert) Bomb

There must be something in the air at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas; the last time MLB held the Winter Meetings there in 2000 the Texas Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a mammoth, 10-year, $252 million contract that was the largest in baseball history until he signed his 10-year, $270 million contact with the Yankees following the 2007 season. This past week the second-largest contract was signed when Albert Pujols inked a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

Aside from the guy who stumbled into the reflecting pool in the lobby, the Pujols contract will long be remembered as the centerpiece of the 2011 Winter Meetings. Of course, the guy who wasnít watching where he was going was funnier. Angelsí fans can only hope new General Manager Jerry DiPoto was watching where he was going when he stunned the baseball world and the St. Louis Cardinals by heisting their franchise player. It didnít hurt that he also fired a broadside at his division rival Texas Rangers by signing their ace, lefthander C.J. Wilson to a 5-year, $77.5 million dollar deal. With a new TV deal that will deliver $3 billion, a truly staggering sum, over the next 20 years, the Angels were able to flex their big-market muscles in the free agency arena in a way they had been unable to do over the last several off-seasons.

Albert will stiffen a mostly lackluster Halosí offense, and C.J. will strengthen an already top-notch rotation. The Rangers will now have to counter in some way if they hope to extend their dominance in the AL West. Some think they will now go after the other major hitting prize in the market, first baseman Prince Fielder formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers. They may also enter the bidding for Pacific League Nippon Ham Fightersí ace, Yu Darvish. It seems like a good bet that Jon Daniels, who snatched Adrian Beltre from the Angelsí grasp last year, wonít counter in some way.

The Angels stole much of the thunder of the also newly-empowered Miami Marlins, who are spring-boarding with their new ballpark into a very productive off-season. The Marlins snagged closer Heath Bell from the San Diego Padres, batting champ Jose Reyes from the New York Mets, and mainstay port-sider Mark Buerhle from the Chicago White Sox. They were also top contenders for Pujols and Wilson as well, actually offering more money than did the Angels. The Marlins clearly expect greatly enhanced revenue streams from their new park.

The free-agent drama wonít have the focal point going forward, but it will be sure to continue. This week as well non-tendered players will be cast upon the waters, and there could be some surprises there, as well.

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