It isn't unusual with long-term contracts for the annual salary to gradually increase over the term of the deal...
But the contract the Angels have done with Albert Pujols is rather extreme in the degree to which it has been backloaded, according to Jerry Crasnick.
From Crasnick's article:
Pujols will make a base salary of $12 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013, said a source. His salary will gradually increase until it surpasses $30 million annually near the end of the deal.
Also per the Crasnick piece, if Pujols gets 3000 hits, he gets a $3 million bonus, along with a $7 million bonus if he passes Barry Bonds' home run mark.
Crasnick says the total deal -- including what he calls "reachable" incentives -- would be about $265 million. With only $28 million of that in the first two years of the deal, that means that, starting in 2014, the Angels would pay Pujols $237 million over 8 years -- an average of $29.625 million per year.
The backloading was, per Crasnick, so the Angels could afford to sign C.J. Wilson as well, but Wilson's deal is also heavily backloaded, with $10.5 million being paid in 2012 (including the signing bonus he received this month) and $12 million in 2013, before jumping up to $17 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015, and $20 million in 2016.
The end result of all this is that the Angels are paying Wilson and Pujols only $22.5 million for the 2012 season, but by 2016, the two will be making close to $50 million, combined.
I think it says a lot about how worried Arte Moreno is about the Texas Rangers, and how desperate it seems he is to make the Angels relevant again in the short run, even at the expense of the team's long-term financial health.