There will not be an Albert Pujols-Tony La Russa reunion on the Chicago White Sox, if the manager is to be believed.
La Russa addressed the possibility while speaking with reporters on Friday, the day after Pujols was released by the Los Angeles Angels in the final year of his mammoth 10-year, $240 million contract. La Russa managed Pujols for 11 years during their time with the St. Louis Cardinals.
While La Russa is a friendly face for Pujols, the manager said that his team simply doesn't have room at designated hitter.
From Scott Merkin of MLB.com:
“We've got [José Abreu] and then you've got [Yermín Mercedes], and even if Yermín gets a little less hot, it's a good way to maneuver that DH and get other guys off their feet,” La Russa said. “There's not a fit here, unfortunately.”
As far as playing time goes, Pujols remains stuck at the designated hitter and first base position, though he's not a particularly good first baseman these days. The White Sox are well-stocked at the two interlocking positions, with Abreu, the reigning American League MVP, at first base and Mercedes, one of this season's breakout players so far, at DH. Those two have accounted for 90% of the starts at the two positions this season.
The White Sox also have players like Jake Lamb and former third overall pick Andrew Vaughn on the roster, so there really isn't a need for an extra bat, as La Russa says.
Where could Albert Pujols land?
So the White Sox possibility isn't happening. Are there any other teams that could use Pujols' talents?
It's hard to see the 41-year-old Pujols having much of a market. He hasn't posted an OPS+ above league average since 2016, and this season was looking particularly brutal with a .198/.250/.372 slash line in 92 plate appearances. That production isn't going to cut it when first base represents your defensive ceiling, and not even a particularly good defensive first base at that.
At this point, the main benefit of signing Pujols at this point is, ironically, his price. The Angels remain on the hook for Pujols' $30 million salary this year, so any team that signs him will probably only have to pay him the major league minimum of about $570,000.
It goes without saying he'll probably have to stay in the American League because of the DH. That could mean teams like the Cleveland Indians or Toronto Blue Jays, which are currently struggling at one of his positions. There are also teams with injuries at first base like the New York Yankees or Cincinnati Reds. And who knows, maybe hurt feelings have dissipated enough that the St. Louis Cardinals could bring him back for old time's sake.
The overwhelming betting favorite, though, might be retirement. Pujols has little else to prove, isn't nearing any major milestones and is getting paid anyway. He's said he wants to keep playing, but teams are aware of his limitations, and that might just not make the name and attention worth it.
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