As expected, future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels last week, reports The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. The Angels owe Pujols the remainder of his $30 million salary this year, minus the prorated portion of the league minimum should he sign elsewhere.
"Albert is not a bench player," Angels GM Perry Minasian told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, last week. "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."
Pujols, 41, was designated for assignment after being upset he was out of the lineup against Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough, a decision that reportedly came from the front office rather than manager Joe Maddon. Minasian said the decision to cut ties with Pujols had been in the works for weeks and not because of the disagreement about being in the lineup against Yarbrough.
Any team that claimed Pujols on waivers would've assumed his contract and been responsible for the remainder of his $30 million salary, so it's no surprise he cleared. He is now free to sign with any team for the prorated league minimum, though the list of suitors appears short. Not many teams need a declining first base/DH type, even one with Pujols' Hall-of-Fame pedigree.
In 24 games prior to being designated for assignment, Pujols authored a .198/.250/.372 batting line with five home runs in 92 plate appearances. He has been a below-average hitter the last five years, and the Angels wanted to install Jared Walsh at first base full-time rather than continue to play him out of position in the outfield.
The last few years have not gone well, but Pujols is on the short list of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He is a career .298/.376/.545 hitter who ranks 3rd all-time in RBI (2,112), 5th in home runs (667), 14th in hits (3,253), and 21st in WAR (99.5). Pujols will be a first ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes, no questions asked.
The Angels come into Thursday in last place in the AL West at 16-20. They've lost 17 of their last 26 games. This is the final season on Pujols' 10-year, $240 million contract.