Despite rumblings Albert Pujols would pursue a reunion with the St. Louis Cardinals or return to the American League, where he could serve as a designated hitter, the future Hall of Famer will instead sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the remainder of the 2021 season.
The decision came as a surprise for a multitude of reasons. Pujols asked for his release from the L.A. Angels due to being relegated to a part-time role, which he will now hold for the Dodgers.
There also is the factor of the Dodgers valuing strong defense and versatility, which Pujols is not a blueprint for.
Although the signing is not yet official, Mike Trout voiced his happiness with Pujols finding a new home, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“I knew he would get an opportunity somewhere,” Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. “Obviously, good friends with him. I’m happy for him.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon highlighted the benefit of Pujols to remain in the same region he and his family have been in the past 10 years:
“I would imagine being close to home would have some benefit there,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said about Pujols joining the team up the road. “I don’t know exactly what the conversations were like, but I do wish him well. His family is right there, so it makes sense. If you get that opportunity closer to home, take it.”
Pujols was in the final season of a 10-year, $240 million contract signed with the Angels in December 2011. He never met the same level of production from years with the Cardinals, and endured a particularly rough 2021 season.
Pujols batted just .198/.250/.372 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 92 plate appearances over 24 games before being designated for assignment. The 41-year-old unsurprisingly cleared waivers late last week.
Pujols should bolster Dodgers bench
Both because of injuries and roster turnover during the offseason, the Dodgers bench hasn’t been the strength it once was. The team collectively has struggled against left-handed pitching, which is another area Pujols should bolster.
“It’s not something we’ve been used to in past years in having guys that are familiar with that role,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They’re doing the best they can.
“I think getting experience is huge, but certainly having Matt Beaty after coming back from the alt. site, to see his performance, has been a big lift for us.”
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