'Never a right time' as Angels DFA Pujols

May 7th, 2021

The Angels designated future Hall of Famer for assignment on Thursday, leaving the 41-year-old’s playing future in limbo.

Pujols was in the final year of his historic 10-year, $253 million deal, which includes a 10-year, $10 million personal services contract once his playing days are over.

“There's never a right time for something like this,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said of the move, which was first reported by MLB.com. “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.”

Minasian said the baseball operations department had been discussing Pujols’ future for the past two weeks, ultimately deciding that Jared Walsh was the club’s best option at first base. With Shohei Ohtani locked in as the Angels’ designated hitter, that left very few at-bats for Pujols, who still views himself as an everyday player.

“Albert is not a bench player,” Minasian said. “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 organization.”

In a statement released earlier in the day, Angels owner Arte Moreno lauded Pujols for his contributions to the Angels, both on and off the field during his decade in Anaheim.

"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," Moreno said. "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 was not in the lineup Wednesday against Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, a pitcher he had enjoyed success against in the past. Joe Maddon had told Pujols last week that he would see the bulk of the playing time this week, but as the manager said Thursday, “things change,” prompting Maddon to have another discussion with Pujols on Wednesday.

After the game, Pujols met with Minasian and team president John Carpino, telling the pair that he was not ready to retire as a player even if the Angels felt he wasn’t the best option for them at the current time.

“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.”

“You always want a player to have a last hurrah or have something; Albert threw that decision back to us and then we made the decision from there,” Carpino said. “It never ends the way that you really want it to, but he handled it like a pro.”

Pujols had not released any statement as of Thursday night, but he is expected to try to sign with another team once he clears waivers.

“He's as motivated as he's ever been,” Minasian said. “I think if the situation was different and there were at-bats for him to play here, it would be different. If he does go somewhere else and pursued playing somewhere else, I would not bet against him.”

“Everybody will tell you the same thing; if you watch Albert work, it's pretty impressive,” Maddon said. “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.”

Pujols leads all active Major Leaguers with 667 home runs, 2,112 RBIs, 3,253 hits and 2,886 games played, compiling a résumé that will surely land him in Cooperstown. He ranks fifth on the all-time home run list, having passed Willie Mays last season.

Drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft, Pujols helped lead St. Louis to three World Series, winning championships in both 2006 and '11. Pujols has captured plenty of personal hardware as well, taking home 2001 NL Rookie of the Year honors along with three NL Most Valuable Player Awards (2005, '08 and '09).

An All-Star in nine of his first 10 seasons, Pujols left St. Louis as a free agent after the Cardinals’ 2011 championship season, inking a 10-year, $240 million pact with the Angels. He left St. Louis with 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs in 1,705 games, ranking second to Hall of Famer Stan Musial in franchise history in both categories, while his 1.037 OPS trailed only Mark McGwire (1.111).

Pujols remained productive with Los Angeles, but he never regained his MVP form during his nine-plus seasons with the Angels. He finishes his tenure in Anaheim with 222 home runs, 783 RBIs and a .758 OPS in 1,181 games. Pujols’ lone All-Star season with the Angels came in 2015, when he hit 40 home runs, one of three 30-plus homer seasons for him in Los Angeles. He did have some memorable moments with the Angels, hitting his 500th and 600th home runs, as well as collecting his 3,000th hit.

“We were proud on the day in 2011 when we signed him,” Carpino said. “He's just had an amazing amount of historic accomplishments. It was a happy day the day we signed him, and yesterday's conversation was difficult.”

It’s possible that the Angels could honor Pujols at some point in the future, though that wasn’t discussed Wednesday night.

“Albert is passionate about continuing to play, so it's hard to do that,” Carpino said. “If he hooks on with another team and the team comes here on a road trip or something, that's possibly something that can happen.”

The oldest active player in the Majors, Pujols was slashing .198/.250/.372 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 24 games this season for the Angels.

“These are not easy decisions, but since I've taken this job, to me it's about what's best for the organization moving forward,” Minasian said. “We felt like this was the best move for the organization moving forward.”