Not long after the Los Angeles Angels designated Albert Pujols for assignment, widespread speculation had it that Tony La Russa, Pujols' manager for all 11 years of his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, would press for the Chicago White Sox to pick up the veteran slugger. However, if La Russa's Friday comments are any guide, that's not going to happen.
Via MLB.com's Scott Merkin, here's what La Russa said about a possible reunion with Pujols:
"We have Jose and Yermin and even if Yermin gets a little less hot, it's a good way to maneuver that DH and get other guys off their feet. There's not a fit here, unfortunately."
"José" refers to first baseman and reigning AL MVP José Abreu, and "Yermín" would be Yermín Mercedes, the 28-year-old rookie phenom and DH who's been the Sox's most productive hitter thus far in 2021. Yes, La Russa's squad badly needs outfield help, what with the major injuries to Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, but Pujols isn't capable of doing that these days and hasn't been for some time. He's a DH or a first baseman, but the Sox are set there, as La Russa indicated.
There's the larger matter of Pujols' declining bat. He's 41 years of age and has been trapped in a pattern of decline for some time, which is what you expect from players of his age. Since the start of the 2020 season, Pujols has batted .214/.263/.387, and that's in addition to being a net negative in the field and on the bases. Pujols is an inner circle all-time great and an obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer who deserves 100 percent of the vote. However, he's simply not a roster-worthy player anymore, which explains why the Angels let him go with the balance of his $30 million salary for 2021 still owed.
La Russa also said he still talks to him and that Pujols still believes he can play. The problem, though, won't be desire or motivation on his part but rather finding a team willing to give Pujols an active roster spot. With the White Sox no longer a possibility, those long odds just got a bit longer.