Albert Pujols, one of the greatest hitters in major league history, has been designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels, the team announced Thursday. The move will lead to his being traded or released.
Pujols, 41, is fifth in major league history with 667 home runs, among numerous other statistical superlatives — particularly among active players — but he struggled for the Angels this season, batting .198 with five home runs and a .372 slugging percentage in 92 plate appearances.
Arte Moreno, the owner of the Angels, released a statement saying he was honored that Pujols had spent nearly half of his career with the team.
“Albert Pujols’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,” Moreno’s statement said.
The Angels have seven days to either trade Pujols or place him on irrevocable waivers. If he goes unclaimed, he will be released and free to sign with any team. One potential landing spot is with the White Sox in Chicago, where injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert have left the team’s lineup thin and where Pujols could be reunited with Tony La Russa, his longtime manager in St. Louis.
Before the season, Pujols’s wife, Deidre, caused a stir with an Instagram post in which she seemed to indicate this would be her husband’s final season. The post was quickly corrected to say that it was simply the last season of his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. He is earning $30 million in the final year of that contract.
In the post, Deidre Pujols referenced her husband’s goal of being the fourth player, after Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds, to reach 700 home runs. With 667, Pujols trails Alex Rodriguez by 29 homers for fourth on the career list, and would probably need one or two more seasons and a steady role in a lineup to join the 700 club.
A superstar in his first 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, whom he led to two World Series titles, Pujols was widely considered the best hitter in baseball when he joined the Angels. But he declined sharply over 10 seasons in Southern California, with his statistics never measuring up to his accomplishments in the National League and his team qualifying for the playoffs just once, in 2014, when it was swept in a division series.
His career batting average, which was .328 after his 11th season, has dropped to .298. While he had 86.6 wins above replacement for St. Louis, which, in and of itself, is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown, he has had just 12.8 since.
Despite his struggles, he has remained a durable player for the Angels, serving as a friend and mentor to Mike Trout, who succeeded Pujols as the game’s best player. After being relegated to a part-time role last season, Pujols started 22 of the team’s 29 games this year, but he was expendable because the team has better options at first base and designated hitter in Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani.
The oldest player in baseball this season, Pujols is the active leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, walks and total bases, among other statistics. His 3,253 hits are the 13th most in major league history and his 2,112 R.B.I. trail only Aaron and Ruth. He has won three Most Valuable Player Awards.
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