It was quite the shocking news to hear on Thursday afternoon.
The Los Angeles Angels announced Thursday the legendary first baseman Albert Pujols was designated for assignment in the final season of his 10-year, $254 million contract. The 41-year old slugger currently sits fifth all-time in MLB history with 667, recently passing Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, who hit 660 in his career.
“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 said in a statement released on Thursday. “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.”
In February, questions opened up about the future of Pujols past the 2021 season. The three-time NL MVP left open possibilities regarding playing following this season.
“I think that decision will come at the end of the year,” Pujols told the media. “My mind is staying focused [on staying] healthy and help this ballclub try to win this year.”
Following the Cardinals’ historic 2011 World Series win, Pujols stunned the sports world when he signed a massive 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Many fans felt betrayed, and many more felt unsure of how well he would fare in the American League. And while he had multiple productive seasons, overall, his best season as an Angel still did not top his worst as a Cardinal.
According to Bleacher Report, his highest OPS with the Angels was .859. Meanwhile, his lowest OPS with the Cardinals was .906, which occurred in 2011.
So, the biggest takeaway here is this… does Pujols come back to the Cardinals?
Well, let’s look at why St. Louis would be a nice destination (besides the obvious fact it’s his old team).
Currently, the Angels are in last place in the American League West. The Cardinals are first in the National League Central. They are the more well-rounded team, and while the Angels have baseball’s best player (in most cases) with Mike Trout, the pitching has been horrendous over the seasons and have struggled in the off-season to build a balanced team. In fact, they’ve made the playoffs only once since 2012.
As for the Cardinals? Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Enough said.
Also, St. Louis has had solid pitching this season, and there’s a true team comradery, and a consistent track record for success. It’s why they’re statistically the best team in the history of the National League.
But, there is one small problem… and by small, I mean big… the fact that if Pujols came back to St. Louis, there would be no way he starts.
Nostalgia or not, you cannot start a 41-year old Pujols over Goldschmidt. You just can’t.
In this type of situation, the best thing you could do if you’re the Cardinals’ front office is have him as a pinch hitter, in the same type of position Matt Carpenter is in. Just with a cheaper contract.
So, it remains to be seen if he truly will return to the Cardinals before his career is up.
But one thing is certain: even though his record accomplishments happened as an Angel, his greatest success came as a Cardinal.
And that’s what he’ll truly be remembered for.
Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports