The Hall of Fame career of Albert Pujols appears to be on its last legs.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Angels announced that they had designated Pujols for assignment.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) May 6, 2021
Pujols ends his Angels career with a triple slash of .256/.311/.447, adding 222 home runs to his career tally. As an Angel, Pujols couldn’t live up to the hype of his ten-year, $240 million contract. He received MVP votes in just two of his ten seasons with the team (17th place finishes in both 2012 and 2014), and made just one All-Star team (2015).
His decline was even more pronounced over the last five seasons. Since 2017, Pujols has played in 460 games, and has slashed just .240/.289/.405 with 76 home runs. Per Fangraphs, he has cost the Angels 3.3 wins over those five seasons.
More than anything else, it seems like this move was exacerbated by the fact that the Angels now have a pair of players that can adequately play the two positions can man at this point in his career. After a slow start to his career, first baseman Jared Walsh has 15 homers and a .980 OPS over the last two seasons (albeit in just 60 games), and DH Shohei Ohtani is back to his best with the bat, homering nine times with a .939 OPS in 29 games this season. Pujols’ continued decline has made it impossible for Joe Maddon to regularly play him in front of either of those two players (yet, he’s still played in 24 games this season, with Walsh getting time in the outfield).
If this is the end for Pujols (as it seems like it is, despite reports that he wants to keep playing), his career achievements shouldn’t be dampened by how it ended. He’s a former Rookie of the Year, a three-time MVP, a ten-time All-Star, a six-time Silver Slugger winner, and two-time Gold Glover. He ranks fifth all-time with 667 home runs, third all-time with 2,112 RBI, fifth all-time with 669 doubles, fifth all-time with 5,955 total bases, and 14th all-time with 3,253 hits. At the absolute minimum, he’s a top 30 player of all-time (and in reality, probably top 20, but all-time discussions tend to get messy), and he’s not the first (or likely the last) icon to end their career with a whimper rather than a roar.