Albert Pujols has signed a major league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, moving 30 miles north to extend his remarkable career after leaving the Los Angeles Angels.
The 41-year-old Pujols formalized his one-year deal Monday with the defending World Series champions after agreeing to make the move last weekend. The fifth-leading home run hitter in major league history likely will be in uniform during the Dodgers’ home series with Arizona, which begins Monday night.
Pujols was unceremoniously cut by the Angels earlier this month in an abrupt end to his largely unsuccessful 10-year, $240 million tenure with the Orange County club. The struggling Halos will pay all but about $420,000 of Pujols’ $30 million salary this season while he plays on with their dominant local rivals.
The Angels said they broke up with Pujols because he wanted to play every day, but they have two players at his positions — first baseman Jared Walsh and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani — with far superior offensive numbers.
Yet Pujols is joining the Dodgers as a clear backup and situational player, suggesting that playing on — and playing for a title contender again after nine mostly dismal seasons in Anaheim — were more important to the 10-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion.
Pujols, who began his career with 11 prolific seasons in St. Louis, has 667 career homers, and he is 13th in big league history with 3,253 hits. The most prolific hitter of his generation batted .198 with five homers and 12 RBIs this year while playing in 24 of the Angels’ 29 games, and he is in a 7-for-43 slump since April 20.
The Dodgers are a perennial powerhouse, but they began Monday with a whopping 13 players on their injured list after losing World Series MVP shortstop Corey Seager over the weekend to a broken hand. Their recent lineups have featured more prospects and borderline major league players than the stars expected to lead one of the majors’ most successful teams.
With former NL MVP Cody Bellinger still sidelined by a hairline leg fracture, Pujols could play first base to fill in for Max Muncy, who occasionally moves to third base to give a day off to Justin Turner. Muncy can even play second base, which will be fluid for at least four weeks with Gavin Lux moving to shortstop while Seager heals.
Pujols has made only 41 career plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, but the Dodgers must be hoping he will provide a threat in spot situations as well. And the right-handed-hitting Pujols conceivably could help the Dodgers to hit left-handed pitching, an area in which their lineup is below the major league average.
The Dodgers have been successful in recent seasons in getting contributions from several major league elder statesmen near the close of their careers, including Chase Utley and David Freese. Pujols’ leadership and example have been praised by Mike Trout and other key Angels, even while his overall offensive numbers dipped to below-average levels.
Right-hander Tony Gonsolin was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster for Pujols.