Just over a week after being released by the Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols has signed with another team. And he won’t move far to finish out the 2021 baseball season.
On Saturday, Pujols signed with the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times‘ Jorge Castillo.
The veteran slugger is already being paid $30 million by the Angels, per the final year on his 10-year, $240 million contract. The Dodgers will pay him the major-league minimum, prorated to approximately $420,000. Pujols was signed to a major-league deal, which is expected to become official on Monday.
BREAKING: The Dodgers and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols are in agreement on a major-league deal for the remainder of the season, per source.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) May 15, 2021
Pujols, 41, batted .198 with a .622 OPS, five home runs, and 12 RBI this season before the Angels designated him for assignment. He’s a curious signing for the Dodgers, who could use help with injuries to Cody Bellinger and A.J. Pollock. But Pujols isn’t capable of playing the outfield anymore and the Dodgers can only use him as a designated hitter when they play in American League ballparks.
However, it’s possible that Pujols could get some time at first base. Second baseman Gavin Lux currently has a triple-slash average of .235/.267/.327, so the Dodgers could move Max Muncy over there. At the least, that could happen against left-handed pitching. Muncy is batting .176 and slugging .265 versus lefties, while Lux has a .279 OPS in such matchups. (Muncy could also play third base if Justin Turner needs a day off.)
Meanwhile, Pujols has a .259/.286/.593 with three homers against left-handers. That could also make him a decent pinch-hitting threat for manager Dave Roberts, a role the Dodgers reportedly discussed before signing the veteran.
Pujols and the Dodgers are said to have had very open and honest conversations in which they explained a very limited role, and he’s said to be all in. So for the most part, consider him a pinch hitter extraordinaire.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 15, 2021
With such a limited role, Pujols isn’t likely to reach 700 home runs this season. (Considering his performance to this point, he wasn’t going to achieve that milestone while playing full-time either.) He currently has 667 career home runs, a total that would surely be higher had Major League Baseball played more than 60 games in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. (Yet Pujols only appeared in 39 games and hit six homers last season for the Angels.)
Pujols obviously isn’t the star player he once was, especially with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2001 through 2011. But he has won three NL Most Valuable Player awards, giving the Dodgers four MVPs on their roster with Bellinger, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw. The team also has three Cy Young Award winners on their pitching staff in Kershaw, David Price, and Trevor Bauer.
FWIW, the last time Albert Pujols had a pinch hit was in 2009. He’s 0-9 since. #Dodgers
— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) May 15, 2021
The Dodgers are likely hoping Pujols can help an offense that could use some help. Though the team has a .246 batting average, that ranks eighth in MLB during this season of poor offense. Their team .758 OPS is fourth in the majors. The Dodgers also lead the National League with 196 runs.
But with 124 games remaining on the schedule, any bit of offense and adding to the roster’s depth (a strength for the past several seasons for the Dodgers) can’t hurt. And maybe Pujols can capitalize on an opportunity to add a stronger punctuation mark at the end of his career for a team looking to repeat as World Series champions.