Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is a free agent for the second time in his professional career. The Angels released the veteran slugger on Thursday, a move first reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
What’s next for Pujols? We’ll find out soon enough. One thing is certain: The market for Pujols’ services will be less crowded this time around.
Pujols is in the last year of a 10-year, $240 million deal he signed in December 2011, a contract that ended 11 rather incredible years in St. Louis that cemented his status as a future Cooperstown inductee before he ever played for the Angels.
Pujols turned 41 in January. He’s pretty much split his time between first base and DH the past several years for the Angels, and he’s been but a shadow of his former self at the plate.
In his 11 years with the Cardinals, Pujols won three NL MVP awards and finished second four times. He had three other top-five finishes, too. In his 10 years with the Angels, he’s only received down-ballot MVP votes in two years, resulting in 17th-place finishes in 2012 — his first year with his new club — and in 2014.
His bWAR in 11 years with the Cardinals: 88.6
His bWAR in 10 years with the Angels: 12.8, including a minus-2.0 total since 2017.
Needless to say, that’s not exactly the type of production the Angels thought they would be getting. They knew he wouldn’t produce at an MVP level throughout the entirety of his career, but nobody expected the drop-off to happen that quickly.
“The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and are honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall-of-Fame Career,” Angels owner Arte Moreno write in a statement. “Albert’s historical accomplishments, both on and off the field, serve as an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and his actions define what it means to be a true Superstar. Since his Rookie of the Year Season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities throughout the world. We are thankful to the entire Pujols Family.”
So, is Pujols done? This is speculation, but it makes sense that he still wants to play. If he’s planning to retire immediately, that’s how this parting of ways would have happened. This is very much not a retirement, though.
Maybe he convinces the Cardinals to bring him back, though that roster spot seems too valuable, on a contending club without a DH.
Maybe his old manager, Tony La Russa, brings him to Chicago to play for the White Sox. His club has a first baseman, of course, in Jose Abreu, but maybe there would be ABs at DH if Yermin Mercedes slows down.
Neither seems very likely, even though they’re the most likely options. The DH position in 2021 is a spot that offers roster flexibility for a lot of clubs, and GMs aren’t going to be running to fill it with a 41-year-old slugger who has an 85 OPS+ over the past five seasons.
If this is the end for Pujols, though, it should be a celebration of an incredible career, not a rehash of a stagger to the finish.