- The Los Angeles Angels have designated Albert Pujols for assignment, a formality prior to releasing him after he clears waivers.
- The 41 year old Pujols is in the final year of his contract and will become a free agent for the second time in his 21 year career.
- The Angels were hard pressed to find playing time for Pujols with Jared Walsh at first base and Shohei Ohtani at the DH.
Albert Pujols is a sure Hall of Famer and a player that has been a fixture for a generation of baseball fans. He’s now facing an uncertain professional future after he was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. The designation is a procedural move prior to giving him his unconditional release which will happen as soon as he clears waivers in three days. At that point, Pujols will become a free agent for the second time in his 21 year Major League career.
It was clearly a move that the Angels hated to make but one that was necessary for the longterm success of the team as well as the development of their personnel. Jared Walsh has taken over the starting job at first base and has played well. Japanese import and force of nature Shohei Ohtani has been getting most of the at-bats as a designated hitter. By all accounts, Pujols wants to keep playing though whether he’ll be able to find a new spot remains to be seen.
It’s rare to hear a team speak so glowingly about a player that they’re in the process of releasing. Angels general manager Perry Minasian clearly explained the logic behind the move but made it clear that it didn’t make it any easier:
“There’s never a right time for something like this. 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. 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.”
Angels owner Arte Moreno–who originally signed Pujols to a 10 year, $240 million contract in 2011–praised both his talent and character in this statement:
“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. 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.”
GM Minasian spoke of the conversation between himself, Pujols and team president John Carpino that led to his release. According to Minasian, Pujols said that he wasn’t ready to retire even if he wasn’t the best option at the time for the Angels:
“He’s as professional as any player I’ve ever dealt with. 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.”
Team president Carpino said that Pujols handled the tough situation with characteristic class:
“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. It never ends the way that you really want it to, but he handled it like a pro.”
Manager Joe Maddon spoke highly of Pujols and his work ethic:
“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.”
Pujols’ numbers speak for themselves: 667 home runs, 2,112 RBIs, 3,253 hits and 2,886 games played. He ranks fifth on the all-time home run list, having passed Willie Mays last season. At 41, he’s the oldest active player in Major League Baseball.