The Angels shocked the baseball world last week when the Halos released veteran slugger Albert Pujols. The 41-year-old was in the final year of his contract and has struggled to produce outside of the occasional home run during the first month of the season. Plus, with Shohei Ohtani taking the DH spot most days and Jared Walsh an option at first base, the Angels didn’t have a lot of room for Pujols.
But that doesn’t mean his career is over. This may end up being his last season, but Pujols likely hasn’t played his final game in the big leagues. Once he clears waivers after being designated for assignment, Pujols will be free to sign with any team for the league minimum.
When he becomes a free agent, here are 10 teams that should give Pujols a chance and see what he has left in the tank.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays aren’t getting much from DH Rowdy Tellez these days, so there would be a path to Pujols getting at-bats. Plus, with George Springer on the IL again, they can’t rotate their extra outfielders into the DH spot as easily.
If nothing else, Pujols could serve as a platoon partner for Tellez while also serving as a mentor for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and some of Toronto’s other young hitters.
The Cleveland lineup is so starved for runs right now that Pujols has to be considered as an option. It’s not like he’s going to do any harm after the Tribe was no-hit by Wade Miley.
The problem is that Franmil Reyes is the DH and shouldn’t be spending a lot of time in the outfield. However, the Indians have gotten nothing from the first base tandem of Jake Bauers and Yu Chang.
Pujols might have to play a little more first base than he was with the Angels, but it’d be worthwhile if Cleveland could add another power source to complement Reyes and Jose Ramirez.
Kansas City Royals
Pujols could be an interesting X-factor for the Royals if they plan on remaining a contender this year. The downside is that Jorge Soler would have to play right field a little more often to make room for Pujols at DH.
But Kansas City doesn’t have many other strong options for the DH spot if Soler and Carlos Santana are both in the field. If it doesn’t work out, it’d be easy to part ways with Pujols, which is a good enough reason to give the veteran a chance.
The A’s already hit for a ton of power but a low average, so Pujols would fit in right away.
Pujols would primarily platoon at the DH spot with Mitch Moreland without having to play the field much. The A’s wouldn’t have to make too many changes to the way they rest and rotate their everyday players, so there’s little downside.
For the ultimate Moneyball club, getting Pujols at the league minimum makes too much sense not to try.
The Astros definitely aren’t starved for offense nowadays, but it rarely hurts a team with championship aspirations to add a veteran like Pujols. His role would likely be limited to being a platoon partner with young slugger Yordan Alvarez at the DH spot.
Houston could always give Alvarez a little time in left field if Pujols starts to hit, so there’s little downside on a contender like the Astros taking a flyer on Pujols.
The Rangers look like they could be in danger of falling behind the pack in the AL West, so taking a chance on Pujols could be one way of creating a spark.
With Khris Davis back from the IL, he will get most of the at-bats at the DH spot. However, first baseman Nate Lowe has dramatic splits and has struggled against lefties this year. Pujols could become Lowe’s platoon partner and give the Texas lineup a little bit of a lift before they fall too far behind.
With Joey Votto getting hurt and likely to miss at least a few weeks, signing Pujols could be at least a temporary solution for the Reds.
It’s worth mentioning that Cincinnati doesn’t have any naturally right-hand hitting first basemen, either, so there could be a spot for Pujols even after Votto returns. In fact, Votto has struggled against left-handed pitching this year. And Pujols could be used every day as a pinch-hitter with a National League club like Cincinnati.
With Christian Yelich missing, the Brew Crew should explore all options to add a little power, including Pujols.
Milwaukee also has an obvious need at first base. Keston Hiura struggled mightily early in the year that he had to be sent to the minors. Daniel Vogelbach hasn’t been much better and Billy McKinney isn’t a natural first baseman.
Unless Hiura can get things turned around and get back to the majors, the Brewers could use a right-hand-hitting first baseman, even if he’s 41 and a little defensively challenged.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Do the Dodgers need Pujols? Probably not, but that’s not enough of a reason to see if he’d be interested in staying in Southern California.
The LA lineup has plenty of depth, although the Dodgers don’t have a right-hand-hitting first baseman. Pujols would only be asked to start occasionally, spending the rest of his time being used as a pinch-hitter. That’s not a bad role for Pujols at this point in his career, especially on a team that expects to turn things around and compete for another championship.
St. Louis Cardinals
Just for old time’s sake, the Cardinals should see if Pujols wants to return to St. Louis and bring his career full circle.
The Cards can’t promise much playing time with Paul Goldschmidt at first base. But he would surely be welcomed back with open arms by the fanbase. Plus, Pujols and Matt Carpenter would make for a scary tandem coming off the bench every night.
The Cardinals look like a serious contender in the NL Central, and a veteran hitter like Pujols on the bench could be a small but important ingredient later in the season.
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