Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is a free agent for the second time in his professional career. The The Angels released the veteran slugger on Thursday, a move first reported by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
What’s next for Pujols? We’ll find out soon enough. One thing is for sure: the market for Pujols services will be less crowded this time.
Pujols is in the final year of a 10-year, $ 240 million deal he signed in December 2011, a contract that ended a pretty incredible 11 years in St. Louis that cemented his status as a future Cooperstown member before playing for the Angels.
Pujols turned 41 in January. He’s pretty much split his time between first baseman and designated hitter in recent years for the Angels, and he’s been but a shadow of what he was at the plate.
In his 11 years with the Cardinals, Pujols won three National League MVP awards and finished second four times. He also had three other top five results. In his 10 years with the Angels, he only received MVP votes on the negative ballot in two years, resulting in 17th place in 2012, his first year with his new club, and in 2014.
His bWAR in 11 years with the Cardinals: 88.6
His 10-year bWAR with the Angels: 12.8, including a minus 2.0 total since 2017.
Needless to say, that’s not exactly the kind of production the Angels thought they would get. They knew he wouldn’t produce at an MVP level for his entire career, but no one expected the drop to happen so quickly.
“The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and is honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall of Fame career,” wrote the Angels owner, Arte Moreno, in a statement. And off the field, they serve as an inspiration to athletes around the world, and their actions define what it means to be a true superstar. Since their Rookie of the Year season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities around the world. We thank the entire Pujols Family ”.
So, did Pujols finish? This is speculation, but it makes sense that he still wants to play. If you plan to withdraw immediately, this is how this parting of the way would have happened. However, this is not a retirement.
Maybe he’ll convince the Cardinals to bring him back, even though that roster spot seems too valuable, at a contending club without an appointee.
Maybe his former manager, Tony La Russa, will take him to Chicago to play for the White Sox. His club has a first baseman, of course, in José Abreu, but maybe there is AB in the designated hitter if Yermin Mercedes slows down.
Neither seems very likely, although they are the most likely options. The DH position in 2021 is a place that offers flexibility on the roster for many clubs, and general managers will not be running to fill it with a 41-year-old slugger who has an 85 OPS + over the past five seasons.
However, if this is the end of Pujols, it should be a celebration of an incredible career, not a replay of a shiver to the finish.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.