Having already undergone season-ending knee surgery, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is slated for another procedure. As Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times was among those to tweet, Pujols will have bone spurs removed from his right elbow.
It is not clear whether the new procedure will really alter the timeline for recovery that Pujols was already subject to by virtue of the work to his problematic knee. The esteemed veteran says he expects to have a mostly typical offseason in terms of preparation for the 2019 season.
Be that as it may, it’s hard not to wince at the emergence of another malady for the once-feared slugger. Pujols, 38, has been a shell of his former self — even of his reduced, early-Angels-period self — over the past two seasons. In that span, he’s carrying a meager .243/.287/.397 batting line through 1,134 plate appearances.
While he has swatted 42 long balls since the start of 2017, that hardly makes up for the anemic on-base percentage. Indeed, it makes it difficult to utilize a MLB roster spot on a player who’s limited to first base and DH duties. Needless to say, the remainder of his contract — $87MM for the next three seasons — does not appear to represent an appealing commitment.
Nevertheless, Pujols has as much talent as any hitter in baseball history, so perhaps there’s still a glimmer of hope that he can find a way to contribute late in his career. Plus, this isn’t really an entirely new problem for Pujols, though that’s a fact that perhaps cuts both ways. He underwent a similar clean-up procedure in the 2009-10 offseason and ended up turning in his final truly epic offensive season in the ensuing campaign.
For his part, the surefire future Hall-of-Famer says he’s optimistic about being able to line up at first base a fair bit in 2019. On the one hand, that would create space for him to get in the lineup, given that Shohei Ohtani figures to command much of the time as the DH. On the other, it’s arguable that Pujols ought to be utilized in a much more limited role than he has been in recent years. Carrying both of those players will be particularly difficult with Ohtani unlikely to take the mound for the entirety of the 2019 season, but perhaps the Halos will find a creative way to get a left-handed-hitting corner infielder into the mix to help make it work.