The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a one-year deal with franchise legend Albert Pujols. The deal is worth $2.5 million, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The pact will give the 42-year-old Pujols a bit of a retirement tour with the team that drafted him and for which he played the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame career.
Pujols was reintroduced to Cardinals faithful at a spring training game Monday, and he told reporters that the 2022 season will be his last in Major League Baseball.
Pujols hit .236/.284/.433 (91 OPS+) with 17 homers and 50 RBI in 296 plate appearances last season for the Angels and Dodgers combined. It was the last year of his 10-year deal signed with the Angels after the 2011 season. As can be seen from the stat line, he's still capable of hitting home runs at a high rate, but that's about the extent of his usefulness these days.
In looking at the Cardinals' roster, Pujols could fit as a platoon designated hitter, matching up with lefty-swinging Corey Dickerson. Pujols hit .294/.336/.603 with 13 homers in 136 at-bats against left-handers last year, so it makes good enough on-field baseball sense.
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There is, of course, also the sentimental factor here. Pujols was drafted by the Cardinals in 1999 (a 13th-round pick, in one of the all-time great draft heists). He debuted in 2001, winning Rookie of the Year, making the All-Star team and finishing fourth in NL MVP voting at age 21.
Pujols would win three MVPs in his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, finishing second four times and winning two World Series rings. He led the league in WAR five times, runs five times, OPS three times, slugging three times, total bases four times, home runs twice and once in the following: Hits, doubles, RBI, average, on-base percentage.
This was a Hall of Fame career crammed into 11 seasons. Only Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby and Bob Gibson accumulated more WAR with the Cardinals. In the history of the storied franchise, Pujols also ranks third in runs, fifth in hits, second in total bases, second in doubles, second in home runs (Musial really prevented a lot of firsts, by the way), second in RBI, second in walks and second in OPS.
Pujols, of course, did some compiling in his 10 years away. All told in his illustrious career, he now sits with 3,301 hits, 672 doubles, 679 home runs, 2,150 RBI and 1,872 runs.
- He's 12th in hits. With just 19 more, he'd move past Paul Molitor and into 10th all-time. He's 118 from tying Carl Yastrzemski for ninth and 119 from tying Honus Wagner for eighth. Cap Anson at seven is 134 away.
- Pujols is fifth in doubles and that's where he'll stay. He's 52 away from Ty Cobb, who sits fourth.
- The 679 homers are fifth all-time. He's 17 away from tying A-Rod for fourth. And if he can hit 21, he joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in the 700 club. This will be the fun one to watch.
- Pujols is third in RBI and 64 away from Ruth for second behind Aaron. It's doable, right?
- He's 14th in runs. Lou Gehrig is only 16 away in 12th. Derek Jeter sits 11th and Pujols is 51 away.
More than anything, though, it still seems fitting after all these years that Pujols will get one last stint with the Cardinals.