When we reference Albert Pujols, the terms “legend” and “Hall of Famer” come to mind. Despite an underwhelming tenure with the Los Angeles Angels since signing in 2011, he is still the owner of 667 home runs, 3,253 hits and 2,112 RBIs; enough for third all-time. He is also just the fourth player in MLB history to sport above 600 home runs and 3,000 hits. Had it not been for the sudden decline in Los Angeles, Pujols likely could have been the leader in career homers and RBIs. Pujols has also never cheated the game. He has always conducted himself with class and has been seen as one of the enjoyable players across the league.
Last week, Pujols was abruptly released from his contract with the Angels and will collect his final payment of $24 million elsewhere. There is a high likelihood that he will decide to ultimately retire and call it a career at the age of 41, but there have been reports that Pujols still wants to play. Many fans are hoping so, as it would be a shame to see the illustrious career of his end in such the fashion that it did.
5. Chicago White Sox
This is perhaps the most unlikely option, despite it being a desire for fans of the three-time MVP. One of the first destinations thrown out there was the White Sox because of the obvious connection with manager Tony La Russa and their success in winning two World Series titles over the course of 10 successful seasons together in St. Louis.
I was among those with the beliefs until La Russa commented about how there isn’t any room for Pujols on the roster. Unfortunately, he is correct. As good of a story it would be, Pujols is batting .198 with five home runs this season. He certainly isn’t taking Abreu’s spot in the lineup and Pujols’ lack of defensive ability at his age would make it a reach to add him to the roster.
4. Cincinnati Reds
Unlike the White Sox option, the Reds provide a legitimate possibility of being a fit for Pujols. Joey Votto is currently down with a broken thumb, which immediately opens up a temporary spot for someone like Pujols. It seems unlikely the Reds would want to move Mike Moustakas, who’s capable of playing the position, but has been the team’s third baseman all year and would leave an opening there.
Kyle Farmer is another option for the position, but he’s been their primary utility player and the team may prefer to use him in that role. Farmer hasn’t exactly lit the league up with his current playing time either. Pujols could provide some temporary stability and produce with enough playing time.
That being said, Votto is rumored to be out of action for a month. An active Votto would make having Pujols on the team pointless. This could work if Pujols simply wants to go out on a better note than being released. Overall, it sounds like a lot of work. I wouldn’t completely dismiss this option, but it feels unlikely.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates haven’t been a name brought up much in the Pujols talk, and it’s understandable considering the directionless franchise the Pirates have been for over a decade. I bring this name up because if the goal of Pujols is to play somewhere he can get the most at-bats, Pittsburgh might be the appropriate destination. It’s difficult to make an argument for Pujols being a starting first baseman anywhere at this point in his career and he’s certainly not going to take Colin Moran’s spot. Moran has gotten off to an efficient start, but his backup Todd Frazier hasn’t.
Frazier is sporting just one hit in 27 at-bats this season and is appearing to age worse than Pujols at 35-years old. Given Pujols’ role behind Jarred Walsh and Shohei Ohtani the past few years, he would be able to adjust well behind Moran. Any injury to Moran could put Pujols into the starting lineup and he could see more success than Frazier. This wouldn’t do much for his legacy, but he could have more opportunities to add to his already-legendary career resume.
2. Cleveland Indians
Former MLB first baseman and current MLB analyst Eduardo Perez proclaimed there would be no better fit for Pujols than Cleveland. Current first baseman Jake Bauers has been off to a rough start, as he is currently sporting a .180 batting average to go with one home run this season.
Perez’s belief certainly holds merit, but it would depend on how the Indians feel about Bauers and Yu Chang. Both are just 25-years old and neither have put up a convincing argument for being starting first baseman. If Cleveland is ready to pull the plug, signing Pujols might be the right move. He has been more of a threat than both Chang and Bauers at this point of the season, but he’s not going to provide a substantial upgrade at the position. Perhaps having the future Hall of Famer in the locker room could do wonders for the young roster.
1. St Louis Cardinals
The first thought for the ending of Pujols career was the St. Louis Cardinals. That is where he put up his unreal numbers during the first 10 seasons of his career before departing for Los Angeles. This would be the storybook ending for Pujols.
That being said, it’s complicated. He is definitely not going to take at bats away from Paul Goldschmidt and is not worth taking at-bats from Matt Carpenter either. In reality, there is no real fit on this roster for Pujols as it stands. There could be a possibility of signing a short-term contract spanning across a month to provide a quick farewell tour to send him into retirement the correct way. Given the fact that Pujols has expressed a desire to play, I don’t see this being a possibility.
It’s more likely the 41-year old signs a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Cardinals.