On March 8, the Los Angeles Angels surprisingly designated future Hall of Fame first basemen Albert Pujols for assignment. Prior to becoming an Angel, Pujols had a legendary 11 year run with the St. Louis Cardinals in which he accumulated 81.3 Wins Above Replacement via Fangraphs (fWAR). To put into perspective how impressive this is, the most recent first basemen inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jim Thome, accumulated 69.1 fWAR over his 22 year career.
As a result of his insane performance with the Cardinals, Pujols signed a 10 year deal with the Angels worth $240 million prior to the start of the 2012 MLB season. Despite how good he was with the Cardinals, Pujols was only able to accumulate 5.7 fWAR in his 10 seasons with the Angels. Every season from 2017 to 2021 (so far), Pujols’ fWAR has been below zero (meaning that it would’ve been more valuable to not play Pujols at all compared to playing him) and the highest his Weighted Runs Created + (wRC+) has been in a season was 91 (100 is considered league average, 90 is considered 10% below league average and 110 is considered 10% above league average).
Pujols officially cleared waivers on Thursday and was officially released by Angels yesterday. Today, Pujols reportedly signed a one year prorated minimum salary deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In spite of Pujols’ slow start to 2021 and the great performances of Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels decided it would be best to part ways with Pujols rather than keep him on the bench. Regarding the team’s decision to DFA Pujols, Angels general manager Perry Minasian said “This is more about playing time and who we have. Albert is not a bench player. We felt like, 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. There’s never a good time for this. But we felt like it was the best thing for the organization.”
Although Pujols is slashing .198/.250/.378 with a .269 weighted On Base Average (wOBA) and 74 wRC+, he is due for some positive regression. Pujols has a .265 expected batting average (64th percentile) which is the 15th unluckiest gap between his actual and expected BA among all qualified hitters, a .516 expected slugging percentage (81st percentile) which is the eighth unluckiest gap between his actual and expected SLG among all qualified hitters, and a .347 expected weighted On Base Average (62nd percentile) which is the ninth unluckiest gap between his actual and expected wOBA among all qualified hitters. Additionally, Pujols’ .176 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is well below the .244 BABIP he had from 2017-2020 and well below a .300 BABIP which is considered roughly league average.
With the Dodgers, Pujols won’t play every day (barring an injury) but should still figure to get pinch hit opportunities and occasional starts at first base. Due to Max Muncy’s ability to play second and third base in addition to first base, Pujols could start at first base if Justin Turner or Gavin Lux gets injured or needs a day off or if Muncy gets injured or needs a day off. In what appears to be Pujols’ last Major League season, he’ll look to win the World Series for the third time in his career with the Dodgers who are looking to repeat as World Series champions.