The 41-year-old slugger officially joined the Dodgers on a one-year contract on Monday, promising to contribute to the defending World Series champions as a first baseman, pinch hitter and veteran mentor. He will wear a No.55 jersey in Dodger Blue after wearing a No.5 red with the Cardinals and Angels throughout his first two decades in the major league.
“I feel like I still have some gas left in my tank,” Pujols said. “I am really delighted with this opportunity. “
Pujols was in the Dodgers roster Monday night as a clean-up hitter and first baseman when they faced left-wing Madison Bumgarner in Game 1 of a four-game series with Arizona at Chavez Ravine.
The fifth-best home hitter in major league history said his role with the Dodgers would be “just rubbish.” I’m here to do anything, you know. Pinch stroke, first base, whatever they want. I’m just excited. to have this opportunity to wear this uniform. “
Pujols’ willingness to accept a situational role with the Dodgers contradicts public statements by Angels as to why the 10-time All-Star was unceremoniously cut off earlier this month.
Pujols did not say anything publicly when the Angels nominated him for an assignment, but he claimed on Monday that the abrupt end of his largely unsuccessful 10-year, $ 240 million tenure with the Orange County club was entirely the decision of the Angels.
“It shocked me, I think like everyone else,” Pujols said. “But at the end of the day, no hard feelings at all. I am here with this organization and I am excited about this opportunity. I’m not the only player who will probably experience this. “
Angels chairman John Carpino and general manager Perry Minasian said the Halos broke up with Pujols because the slugger wanted to play every day despite his declining statistical contributions. The Angels have two players – first baseman Jared Walsh and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani – with much higher offensive numbers.
Wearing a blue Dodgers cap, Pujols directly contradicts claims made by the Angels front office.
“I think there are a lot of things that say, ‘Oh, you wanted more playing time, you wanted to play every day,’” Pujols said. “It never came out of my mouth. “
“My goal over the past two years has never been to try to be an everyday first baseman,” said Pujols.
“I told you during spring training, whatever role they have for me, I’m going to go. I understand that they made this decision as an organization, a business decision, and without hard feelings. a chat with me, and that was it. Come on, and I’m just happy to have another opportunity with another organization. “
Angels manager Joe Maddon took to the highways after Pujols’ provocative version of events.
“I really don’t have (an answer),” Maddon said before the Angels’ last place in Cleveland. “Semantics is semantics. I wish Albert only the best. It’s great that he can go to work down from where he played, so there is no transition for him or his family. (with Pujols and Carpino). It doesn’t matter at this point. I am not here to deplore anything in the past. “
Pujols joins the Dodgers as a backup and situation player, suggesting playing again for a title contender after nine mostly dismal seasons in Anaheim was the biggest factor for the two-time World Series champion. He will be the fourth former Dodgers clubhouse MVP, joining Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw.
The struggling Halos will pay almost $ 420,000 of Pujols’ $ 30 million salary this season as he plays with their dominant local rivals.
Pujols’ $ 240 million contract included a 10-year personal services contract with the Angels that begins upon retirement, but Pujols also said he won’t be thinking about retirement until the end of this season, thus keeping open the possibility of playing again in 2022.
Pujols, who started his career with 11 prolific seasons in St. Louis, has 667 career homers and is 13th in big league history with 3,253 hits. He is the active leader of the majors in home runs, hits, runs batted (2,112), runs scored (1,852) and games played (2,886).
The most prolific hitter of his generation has hit .198 with five homers and 12 RBIs this year while playing in 24 of the Angels’ 29 games, and he’s been in a 7-for-43 drop since April 20.
The Dodgers are an eternal powerhouse, but they started Monday with 13 players on their injured list after losing Corey Seager, a World Series MVP shortstop, this weekend to a broken hand. Their recent rosters have featured more prospects and borderline majors than the stars expected to lead one of the majors’ most successful teams.
With Bellinger still sidelined with a broken leg, Pujols will play at first base to replace Max Muncy, who advanced to second on Monday night with Gavin Lux filling in at shortstop. Lux is likely to be the Dodgers’ daily shortstop as Seager heals for the next few weeks, and Muncy also plays the occasional third base to give Justin Turner a day off.
Pujols has just 41 career appearances as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers are hoping he will pose a threat in one-off situations as well. The right-handed Pujols could help the Dodgers hit left-handed throws, an area where their roster is below the major league average.
The Dodgers have a long organizational history of securing solid contributions from big names in baseball near the end of their careers, most recently Chase Utley and David Freese. Pujols’ leadership and example has been praised by Mike Trout and the Angels, even though his offensive numbers have dropped to below average levels half a decade ago.
Right-hander Tony Gonsolin has been transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on Pujols’ 40-man roster. The Dodgers also activated new infielder Yoshi Tsutsugo and southpaw David Price, who missed 17 games with a strained left hamstring.