The Cardinals are finalizing a one-year contract to bring Albert Pujol back in Saint Louis, according to Derrick S. Goold of the St. Louis Post-DispatchJust hours ago reports surfaced that the club had a growing interest in a reunion. Now it looks like that has come to fruition and the 42-year-old will return to the nest to be Cardinal once again. Pujols will be paid $2.5 million, by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Pujols, 42, spent the first 11 years of his career with the Cardinals, playing at an unfathomable level and enshrining himself as a future Hall of Famer. In that span he hit 445 homers and shot an incredible .328/.420/.617 for a wRC+ of 167. He was one of the main reasons the club was a continuous contender in that era, making the playoffs in 7 of those 11 seasons and winning the World Series in 2006 and 2011.
Based on that string of otherworldly success, he was signed by the Angels to a ten-year, $254 million deal spanning the 2012-2021 seasons. Pujols continued to perform above average. of the league for the first five years of this deal, although a few notches below what he did as a Cardinal. From there things only got worse, as he only hit 0.242/0.291/0.406 from 2017 to 2020, producing a wRC+ of just 84. After 24 games last year, with only with a few months remaining on the contract, the Angels released him. Surprisingly, he was picked up by the Dodgers, who planned to limit the veteran slugger to a bench/platoon role, primarily against southpaws. The strategy worked quite well, as Pujols hit .254/.299/.460 as the Dodger, a wRC+ of 101.
The Athletic’s earlier report from Katie Woo said the club were interested in bringing Pujols back for a reunion, but in a similar role to the one he had with the Dodgers last year. Now that the National League will have the designated hitter this year, it will be easier for the club to implement Pujols in this way, used as a pinch hitter or in the DH slot, trying to limit his exposure to right-handers. Woo noted that the club have traditionally avoided squad strategies in the past, but this new manager Olivier Marmol considering changing that. Paul Goldschmidt is firmly entrenched as a regular first baseman for the club, meaning Pujols will be in the mix for DH/pinch duties alongside Corey Dickerson, Lars Nootbaar and Juan Yepez.
For Yepez, he looked set to make the team after a terrific year at the minors. Between Double-A and Triple-A last year, he hit .286/.383/.586, for a wRC+ of 154. Then there’s Nolan Gormanwho also spent the last year between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting .279/.333/.481, wRC+ of 115. However, Woo reports that given that Yepez is only 24 and Gorman won’t be 22 until May, the club are considering a plan in which they each spend a bit more time in the minors getting regular reps, while waiting for an opportunity to open up as the season progresses .
While Yepez and Gorman will surely have their opportunities down the line, the narrative of the moment is that one of this generation’s greatest hitters is returning to where he started his career and flourished. Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwrightlongtime cardinals who have been alongside Pujols during his greatest seasons, including those two World Series championships.