What does Albert Pujol’s release mean for him and the Angels? By Ryan Kanne

Via St. Louis Post Dispatch

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have designated future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for assignment in the final year of his 1- year $253 million contract. The veteran first baseman has been struggling in 2021 with a .195 batting average and a career low 74 OPS+. With such a popular and divisive player gone from the roster, what does this mean for Pujol’s career and the Angels as a team.

For Pujols, this looks to be the final stop on a storied career. The 41 year old has been a negative influence on the Angels lineup since 2017, and at his age he can only be a designated hitter. While there are teams that could take a chance on Pujols, his production would likely still be below league average. 

The sudden DFA wont taint Pujol’s legacy much. If he retired today, Pujols would rank top five all time in doubles, home runs, RBI, and extra base hits. There is no question that Pujols has been one of the best hitters of the 2000s and one of the best right handed hitters of all time.  Despite the career long success, his decline was sharp enough to justify being released with almost five months left in the season. 

For the Angels, the release won’t clear the money Pujols was owed in 2021. The move seems to have been made with adding a younger or more productive player to the roster right now. With the Angels falling to 13-15 after a 7-3 start, the team is looking to rebound quickly. 

Their -25 run differential could see the team use the open roster spot on pitchers like Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, or James Hoyt. Barria and Suarez can be starters or come out of the bullpen in long relief roles while Hoyt will be a middle to late innings reliever. Whoever they bring up, the Angels will desperately try to fix their team 4.96 ERA.

While the Pujols move is still surprising, the Angels do have a path towards better pitching. Their batted ball stats are among some of the better pitching teams in the league. Their average exit velocity is third best in MLB (87.8 MPH), behind only the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, while also giving up the second least barrels per plate appearance (4.2). 

If the Angels think they’ve run into some bad luck or just need one more productive pitcher, the Pujols move could be forgotten easily with a few wins. Even replacing Pujol’s roster spot with another position player could add enough offensive production to offset some of the pitching. Players like Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, or Luis Rengifo can get a chance to add more firepower and speed to the Angels lineup.

Unfortunately we won’t know what impact this move will make until the season is over. Until then, let’s remember Pujols and his phenomenal career. Whether we see him play for another team or retire into the sunset, Pujols will forever and always be an MLB legend.