The St. Louis Cardinals and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols are discussing a reunion and talks have picked up, reports Katie Woo of The Athletic. Woo explains that Pujols would not be an everyday player with St. Louis, and would instead serve as a righty bench bat and part-time starter.
Pujols, now 42, remains a weapon against left-handed pitchers, posting a .294/.336/.603 batting line with 13 home runs in only 146 plate appearances against southpaws in 2021. He shouldn't face righties (.180/.223/.266 in 2021) and at this point in his career he has no baserunning or defensive value, but as a situational hitter against lefties, Pujols can have a real impact.
The National League is adopting the designated hitter this season. Pujols won't unseat Paul Goldschmidt at first base, but he could share DH at-bats with Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa, and the recently signed Corey Dickerson. Top prospect Nolan Gorman could be a factor at some point as well. Point is, Pujols will have to accept a reduced role to return to St. Louis.
For Pujols, a return to St. Louis would also give him a chance to join the 700-homer club. He is currently fifth on the all-time home run list and climbing into sole possession of third place this season is unlikely, but not completely impossible:
- Barry Bonds: 762
- Hank Aaron: 755
- Babe Ruth: 714
- Alex Rodriguez: 696
- Albert Pujols: 679
Cardinals stalwarts Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have said this will be their final season, and Pujols joining them for one big farewell tour would be a wonderful baseball story. Of course, St. Louis should prioritize moves that help them win, not nostalgia. Pujols has limited value these days, though his ability punish lefties is a useful skill.
Last year the Cardinals went 90-72 and lost the NL Wild Card Game to the Dodgers. Manager Mike Shildt was fired after the season, and new skipper Oliver Marmol has indicated he wants a flexible roster rather than strict platoons.
Pujols played 11 seasons in St. Louis from 2001-11 and he is simply one of the greatest hitters who has ever lived. He authored a .328/.420/.617 batting line with the Cardinals and is a career .297/.375/.544 hitter with 3,301 hits.
St. Louis will open the 2022 regular season at home against the Pirates on April 7.