MLB

Pujols' future in limbo as Angels insist 'never a right time' to part with future Hall of Famer

By Sports Desk May 06, 2021

Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian insisted there is "never a right time for something like this" after the MLB franchise designated future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for assignment.

Pujols' future is in limbo following Thursday's announcement – a procedural move that will lead to his release by the end of the week, less than two months into the last season of the slugger's 10-year, $240million contract.

The oldest active player in the majors, the 41-year-old Pujols popped out to first in his final at-bat with the Angels in Tuesday's ninth inning before sitting out Wednesday in the team's fourth straight loss. 

One of the greatest sluggers in baseball history, Pujols' 667 home runs rank fifth while his 669 doubles are also fifth-most of all time, but he has been batting mere .198 this season, though has homered five times and is fourth on the Angels with 12 RBIs.

"There's never a right time for something like this," Minasian said. "Obviously, I have all the respect in the world for what type of player he is; this is more about playing time and who we have."

"Albert is not a bench player," Minasian continued. "We felt like for him, with respect to him, keeping him on the bench, him not getting any playing time, would not do him any good or the team any good.

"Never a good time for this, but with that being said, we felt like it was the best thing for the organisation."

Only Hank Aaron has more RBIs than Pujols' 2,112 since it became an official statistic in 1920, and Pujols is 13th on the all-time hits list with 3,253.

Pujols enjoyed great success with the St Louis Cardinals, where he led the franchise to two World Series championships, one other National League (NL) pennant and six division crowns.

A unanimous NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2001 when he hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs, Pujols made his first of nine All-Star selections with the Cardinals.

In his 11 seasons in St Louis, Pujols won three NL MVP Awards and finished in the top five in voting seven other times. 

He left St Louis after helping the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series to sign a mega deal with the Angels.

After slugging 445 home runs with 455 doubles while slashing .328/.420/.617 for a 1.037 OPS in 1,705 games over 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols never lived up to expectations over 10 seasons with the Angels, hitting 222 homers with 214 doubles with a .256/.311/.447 slash line for a .758 OPS in 1,181 games.

His production dropped off significantly in the past four seasons, with 53 homers and a .239/.290/.414 slash line for a .704 OPS in 311 games.

He only earned one trip to the All-Star game since joining the Angels and the franchise made just one postseason appearance, getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 American League Division Series (ALDS).

"He's as professional as any player I've ever dealt with," Minasian said. "There was no fight, there was no argument; this was a conversation that went back and forth.

"He expressed his feelings, we expressed ours; he understood where we stood on the whole situation. Things did not end bad. I gave him a big hug."

"He's as motivated as he's ever been," Minasian added. "If the situation was different and there were at-bats for him to play here, it'd be different. But let me put it this way -- if he does go somewhere else, and pursue playing somewhere else, I would not bet against him."

Angels manager Joe Maddon said: "Everybody will tell you the same thing; if you watch Albert work, it's pretty impressive. He's been around for a bit, he's been playing for a while, but he came to the ballpark with the same zeal on a daily basis. That's what I saw.

"The guy wanted to play, he wants to be on the field; he does not want to be a bench player of any kind. This guy has got a lot of pride, and that's a big reason why he's going to be a first-ballot unanimous Hall of Famer."

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