Back to where it all started: Albert Pujols agrees to one-year Cardinals deal
Albert Pujols is going back to where he launched his Hall of Fame-caliber career in 2001 — the St. Louis Cardinals.
The former Angels and Dodgers slugger, 42, has agreed to a one-year, $2.5-million deal with the Cardinals, according to a person familiar with the deal who can’t speak publicly about it.
On Monday, hours after his deal with the Cardinals became official, Pujols announced 2022 would mark his final season in the majors.
Pujols, who starred for 11 seasons with St. Louis, struggled through nine-plus injury marred seasons with the Angels and finished out 2021 as a key reserve for the Dodgers. He has clubbed 679 homers to rank fifth on baseball’s all-time list behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez.
Cardinals fans are sure to cheer Albert Pujols when the Dodgers visit St. Louis this week. Could he play alongside Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina in 2022?
The burly first baseman and designated hitter is among the top 10 in several other offensive categories, ranking third in RBIs (2,150), fourth in extra-base hits (1,367), fourth in total bases (6,042) and fifth in doubles (672), filling out a resume that is expected to earn him first-ballot entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Pujols established himself as the most feared right-handed hitter in the game during his time with the Cardinals. He hit .328 with 445 homers, 2,073 hits, 455 doubles, 1,329 RBIs and a 1.037 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with St. Louis, leading the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011. He also won two Gold Glove Awards with St. Louis.
The Cardinals are a much different team than the one Pujols left more than a decade ago, but there are a couple of familiar faces on the roster. Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher since 2004, and pitcher Adam Wainwright, who is starting his 17th season in St. Louis, played with Pujols during his first run with the team.
After his eight-year, $111-million contract with the Cardinals expired, Pujols stunned the baseball world by signing a 10-year, $240-million deal with the Angels at the winter meetings in December 2011.
Though Pujols notched his 3,000th hit and 500th and 600th homers as an Angel, his tenure in Anaheim was a disappointment, marked by a dramatic drop in production, a series of lower-body injuries, one meager postseason appearance in 2014 and zero playoff wins.
Pujols hit .256 with a .758 OPS, 222 homers and 783 RBIs in 1,181 games with the Angels and was designated for assignment — and then released — last May after hitting .198 with a .622 OPS, five homers and 12 RBIs in his first 24 games of the 2021 season.
This spring, there are signs that Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, 34, might be scripting a different outcome for the elusive changeup.
The Dodgers, their roster depleted by injuries and their bench in need of a right-handed bat, signed Pujols on May 15, believing he could boost their chances of repeating as World Series champions.
Pujols hit .254 with a .759 OPS, 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 85 games for the Dodgers, including a .303 average, .953 OPS, 10 homers and 28 RBIs against left-handed pitchers and a .378 average with two homers and 10 RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
He had five hits in 17 playoff at-bats but fell short in his bid for another championship ring, the Dodgers losing to the Atlanta Braves in a six-game NL Championship Series.
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