In a huge surprise, the Los Angeles Angels released first baseman/designated hitter Albert Pujols on Thursday. The lock first-ballot Hall of Famer reportedly requested the release if his playing time was going to be greatly reduced, and it was going to be per the front office. SportsLine offers MLB odds on which team will sign Pujols, presuming one does, after he clears waivers.
"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. "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."
Pujols apparently was unhappy that he wasn't in the lineup to face Rays lefty starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough on Wednesday night. Pujols was 6-for-9 in his career against Yarbrough with two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Halos manager Joe Maddon instead started Jared Walsh at first base and Phil Gosselin at DH – although reports are the decision to bench Pujols came from the front office, not Maddon. One can understand Walsh as he's having a terrific season, batting .333 with six homers and a team-leading 22 RBIs. Gosselin, though, is a rarely-used journeyman. Wednesday was just his second game played all year and he's now batting .125. Shohei Ohtani is usually the Angels' DH and should be there tonight in the series finale vs. Tampa Bay.
The 41-year-old Pujols, in the final year of a 10-year, $240 million contract that lured him away from the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2011 World Series title, looks rather shot at the plate as he's batting just .198 with an on-base percentage of .250. He has five homers in 86 at-bats. Pujols still has a 10-year, $10 million personal services contract with the Angels. Once Pujols clears waivers and is released, the Angels will still owe him the remainder of his $30 million salary this year.
No question that Pujols is one of the great hitters in MLB history with three NL MVP Awards, 667 home runs (fifth all-time), 2,112 RBIs (third) and 3,253 hits (14th). He was MLB's most dominant offensive force much of his career in St. Louis and simply not the same player for the vast majority of his Angels career. To compare: Pujols' Wins Above Replacement via Baseball Reference in his Cardinals career was 86.6. With the Angels? Just 12.8. Los Angeles reached the postseason just once with Pujols.
At this point, Pujols is basically a DH with his limited range, although he can play first base sometimes – just not every day. In theory, a team that signs him almost surely will be from the American League because of the DH.
Speculation already is focusing on the White Sox because they are managed by Tony La Russa, Pujols' long-time manager in St. Louis. Chicago doesn't really need a DH/1B type, though, but outfield help because of injuries to Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. Hey, the White Sox did sign another fading legend, Ken Griffey Jr., at the tail end of his career.
Kansas City could be a possibility – wouldn't that be ironic? He'd help draw some (Cardinals) fans to Royals games and current K.C. first baseman Ryan O'Hearn isn't hitting much.
Perhaps Pujols could serve as the platoon DH with Mitch Moreland on the Oakland A's. Cleveland might make sense as the Indians have a not-great first base platoon of Jake Bauers and Yu Chang. Toronto could use a veteran presence like Pujols on a young, talented roster.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Favorites as Albert Pujols' next team
- White Sox +200
- A's +350
- Indians +500
- Blue Jays +700
- Royals +900
- Cardinals +1500
- No team +2000
Where does every player appear in our 2021 Fantasy football rankings? And which rookie quarterback will provide shocking value? Join SportsLine right now to get 2021 Fantasy football rankings, all from the model that simulated the entire season 10,000 times.