For most of Saturday morning, numerous reports around the MLB suggested a possibility of Albert Pujols rejoining his former club, the St. Louis Cardinals, to finish out the remainder of the 2021 season. However, baseball fans were hugely surprised not long after lunchtime when news broke about the future hall of famer reaching a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times was among the first to report the news.
Last week, the Anaheim Angels released the righty hitting Pujols after many believed he would coast into retirement during the final year of his contract. The 41-year-old Pujols clearly wanted to play regularly, but the Angels had difficulty fitting him into their daily lineups considering the emergence of 27-year-old Jared Walsh at first base and two-way player Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter.
As it turned out, Pujols’ departure certainly was most uncongenial. He was designated for assignment by the Angels last Thursday, and the team officially released him once he cleared waivers one week later. The Angels remain on the hook for his $30 million salary in the final season of his $240 million, 10-year contract. The Dodgers will pay only a prorated share of the $570,500 major league minimum, making the acquisition extremely low risk from a financial perspective.
In a way, the move for the Dodgers is not as surprising as many fans seem to believe. In the early part of the season, only three players have appeared at first base for the Dodgers—Max Muncy in 32 games, Edwin Rios at 10 games, and Matt Beaty in two games.
Before the season began, Rios was expected to balance out the team’s defensive approach as the secondary third and first baseman, but his absence for the remainder of the year due to a torn labrum has created more of a void than many had presumed initially, opening the door for Pujols.
Pujols arriving in Los Angeles will seemingly allow Muncy to be rested more regularly while moving around the diamond in other spots, although Muncy has sometimes been known to be a bit of a defensive liability in positions away from first base. Muncy has not played third base yet this season, but he has made 106 career appearances at the hot corner, including 16 during the World Championship run last year. He has made seven appearances at second base so far in 2021.
More than anything else, Pujols provides the Dodgers with a legitimate righty bat off the bench, in addition to being a logical candidate for designated hitter during interleague matchups.
Before being cut by the Angels, Pujols was hitting .198/.250/.372 with five homers and 12 RBI over 92 plate appearances. The native of Santo Domingo is fifth in major league history with 667 homers and 13th with 3,253 hits. A three-time NL MVP and two-time World Series champion with St. Louis, Pujols has a .298 career average and a .921 OPS. He is a 10-time All-Star and has also won two Gold Glove awards.
According to Castillo, the deal is not expected to become official until Monday.