11:38am: Heyman now reports that there’s not “much traction” on a potential Cardinals-Pujols reunion.
10:01am: Legendary slugger Albert Pujols became a free agent Thursday, one week after the Angels designated him for assignment, and the first baseman is now garnering interest from a few teams. Three to four clubs are in on Pujols, Robert Murray of FanSided reports. St. Louis is part of that group, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Katie Woo of The Athletic tweeted Friday that the team has “had limited internal conversations” about a possible deal for Pujols. However, Woo added that the Cardinals had yet to contact Pujols’ camp.
While Woo suggests the Cardinals are unlikely to add Pujols, doing so would make for a compelling story. Pujols, of course, spent the first 11 seasons of his career (2001-11) in St. Louis, where he became a franchise icon and helped the team to a pair of World Series championships. On an individual level, Pujols earned nine All-Star nods, won three National League Most Valuable Player Awards and the NL Rookie of the Year, among many other accolades.
Pujols’ fruitful run with the Cardinals ended heading into the 2012 campaign, when he inked a 10-year, $254MM contract with the Angels. It was the second-largest deal in baseball history at the time, though the Angels didn’t get enough bang for their buck after taking the risk. Pujols’ production declined significantly with the Halos, and dating back to 2017, he ranks second to last among 2,278 qualified position players in fWAR (minus-3.3). During that 1,934-plate appearance span, the 41-year-old has also notched a meager 84 wRC+, which is a far cry from his exemplary lifetime mark (142).
In terms of bottom-line production, this season has been more of the same for Pujols, owner of a .198/.250/.372 line (74 wRC+) with five home runs in 92 trips to the plate. But Pujols has at least shown some encouraging signs, including a typically low strikeout rate (14.1 percent) and his highest average exit velocity since 2016 (90.5 mph). Pujols is also sporting a career-worst .176 batting average on balls in play, though that’s not necessarily shocking for someone devoid of speed. Still, if that number increases and his .270 weighted on-base average moves closer to his .347 expected wOBA, Pujols could perhaps serve as a useful bat/veteran leader for a club willing to take a chance on someone with 667 home runs on his resume.