The St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols appear to be headed for a reunion. According to reports, the two parties are finalizing an agreement, pending a physical. The contract is for one year. The signing might be criticized as a move to sell tickets as opposed to winning ballgames. Certainly, many fans will be very excited to see his return. Pujols is one of the all-time greatest Cardinals and is among the top two or three players in nearly every offensive category for the franchise. However, his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angels left bitterness for many fans. Pujols will be rejoining Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina who, in contrast, both opted to spend their entire careers in St. Louis.
More importantly, Pujols proved last season that he can still help a major league team win. In 296 at-bats, he drove in 50 runs and hit 17 homers–bringing him closer to passing Alex Rodriguez on the all-time home run list. Pujols was particularly effective against left-handed pitchers, posting an OPS of .939 in 2021. Additionally, his leadership should be impactful for the ballclub.
Pujols as Cardinals Designated Hitter
Since the announcement that the National League would adopt the designated hitter for the upcoming year, there has been speculation that Pujols might return to the Cardinals. With his range and age as factors, Pujols is no longer a viable option as a regular first baseman. The Cardinals certainly don’t need a first baseman with Paul Goldschmidt under contract. Pujols was not likely to take a pinch hitting role. However, the opportunity to get regular at-bats as a designated hitter opened the door for his return.
The team recently signed Corey Dickerson with the expectation that he would play some outfield and spend some time as the club’s designated hitter. The move may mean that Juan Yepez will see less opportunities. Pujols can offer significant value in the batter’s box in a limited role. He is 21 home runs away from 700. If he stays healthy, it’s certainly possible that he could reach that milestone this season.
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