In 2011, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder where all powerful forces in the NL Central. The trio of sluggers were not only the best first basemen in the division, but they were also the best first basemen in the league. After hitting free-agency, only one of them remained with their team. Here is a look at how their careers have changed since that season.
In St. Louis, Albert Pujols was the greatest hitter on the planet and the toughest out in the National League. After winning his second World Series with the team in 2011, Pujols moved on to sign a ten-year $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Since the time of his contract, he has seen a major decline in his production. In his first year with the club he stumbled out of the gates. He did not hit his first homerun until May 6th and at the time he was batting just .196. He ended that season with a respectable 30 homeruns and 105 RBIs, but he did not appear to be the same hitter he was with St. Louis. The next season, things were even worse. Injuries limited Pujols to just 99 games, and in those games he posted a .258 batting average, which was a career low.
No longer is he viewed as the most dangerous hitter in the game, but instead his contract has already been viewed as a major bust. He will need a strong, healthy season to show that he is still among the game’s elite.
While playing half of his games at Miller Park, Prince Fielder was a homerun machine. In seven seasons as the Brewers cleanup hitter, Fielder hit 230 homeruns. But after helping to lead the Brewers to the NLCS in 2011, Fielder, like Pujols, spurred the Brewers for more money in Detroit.
The most puzzling part of the contract was not the amount of money that he signed for, but where he signed. By signing in Detroit, Fielder would play half of his games at Comerica Park, a place where flyballs from lefties go to die. In his first season as a Tiger, Fielder hit a career high .313 with 30 homeruns. The next season however, Fielder battled through a hard year. He saw a decline in production with both power and batting average.
This offseason, Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers. By moving to Texas, Fielder’s homerun production should see a major boost. He will no longer be protecting a great hitter like he had in Milwaukee and Detroit, but instead by batting third he will be the hitter that is being protected. This trade could be just the move he needed to get back to being the game’s best slugger.
In 2012, Joey Votto signed a 10 year $225 million contract extension with the Cincinnati Reds. The contract showed that the team believed that Votto could remain an elite player in the game for the next decade. While his power numbers do not jump out, he provides a steady bat. He has led the league in on base percentage in each of the past four seasons and he remains a consistent MVP contender each season. The only down side of his game is that he almost has too good of an eye. With RBI opportunities, Votto will sometimes draw a walk instead of going out of the zone to drive a runner in. Even with that drawback, Votto remains the driving force of the Reds lineup and the player that opposing teams focus on shutting down.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference