Home » Albert Pujols’ best fit after release from Angels probably isn’t with Cardinals or White Sox

Albert Pujols’ best fit after release from Angels probably isn’t with Cardinals or White Sox

by MD Samsuzzaman Siyam

Albert Pujols was designated for assignment by the Angels on Thursday afternoon, a somewhat surprising move considering he has a 10-year, $10 million personal services contract with the franchise that kicks in after his original 10-year, $240 million contract expires. 

Pujols will wind up in Cooperstown. That much we know for sure. He’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Fame choice in his only year on the ballot. But will he have another stop as a player before he heads to rural New York as a baseball immortal? 

At 41, he’s not the player he once was, as everyone knows. He has five homers in 24 games this year, but was batting just .198 with a .622 OPS when he was released. Those aren’t great numbers, but when you take a stroll around the league, you’ll see those numbers are better than several other regulars playing first base or DH. And then, there’s this. 

So where might he wind up? Almost certainly not in the National League, which is sans-DH this season. One club might be an exception. Let’s look at that club and see if there’s a possible fit, and we’ll look at possible AL destinations, too. 

MORE: Why did the Angels release Albert Pujols so suddenly?

Cardinals

Obviously, the connection to St. Louis is strong. Cardinals fans were upset when he left for the West Coast in 2011, but all has been forgiven. Remember the constant ovations when Pujols and the Angels played at Busch Stadium in 2019? And that home run Pujols hit, that was no ordinary home run, for the fans or for the player. 

If this release happened in August or September, when rosters are expanded (or close to expanding), the Cardinals would probably be at the top of the list of destinations.

But it’s early May, and the Cardinals are contending for the top spot in the NL Central. Feel-good reunion roster spots are fine for a month or so, but five months? Probably not. 
And that’s what it would be, a homecoming roster spot. The Cardinals have an established first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt, and he does not take many days off — he’s missed only 23 games since the start of the 2015 season. And, as we mentioned, there is no DH in the NL this year, so the Cardinals would be essentially dedicating a roster spot to a pinch hitter with a 76 OPS+ and .263 on-base percentage in his past 63 games. 

Just hard to see this happening anytime soon. 

Rays

This would be such a Rays thing, right? Sign a guy for cheap and get a bit of rather stunning production out of him, make another playoff run. And it’s worth noting, maybe, that the Rays are the only team in the bigs without a home run from anyone playing first base. Yandy Diaz is the primary first baseman; he’s batting 260 with a .700 OPS and only three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 120 PAs. 

White Sox

The connection to manager Tony La Russa is obvious. And the last time La Russa managed before joining the White Sox this season, Pujols was still a dominant force. 
And, as some have pointed out, injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert leave the White Sox looking for offense. Dots are being connected. 

But here’s the thing: Pujols doesn’t play outfield, like Jimenez and Robert. He plays first base or is the designated hitter. Jose Abreu is the club’s first baseman, and he’s coming off the AL MVP award in 2020. He’s not losing ABs. And the club’s DH, Yermin Mercedes, has been one of the best stories in baseball so far this year. He’s batting .386 with five homers, 16 RBIs and a 197 OPS+ so far this year. 

No way you can take away at-bats from him, right? And Mercedes can’t move to the outfield; he played a grand total of six games in the outfield in a minor-league career that began in 2011. Again, tough to see that happening.

Indians

Franmil Reyes has given excellent production out of the DH spot, and they’re hanging around in the AL Central conversation despite only one home run from their first basemen. Jake Bauers and Yu Chang have each made 13 starts at first; Bauer is batting .188 with a .569 OPS and Chang’s hitting .146 with a .384 OPS. Pujols is far from the elite fielder he once was, but he can still play well enough to get multiple starts per week. 

Mariners

The M’s have been one of the surprise teams early this year, with a record over .500 despite last-place predictions from many. And they see Evan White as the future at first base, but maybe a bit of a break would be a good thing right about now. He’s hitting just .141 with a .408 OPS and 21 OPS+. Maybe bring Pujols in to mentor the kid?

And we all know there’s nothing that GM Jerry DiPoto loves like making a deal to shake things up. 



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