The Los Angeles Angels announced Thursday first baseman Albert Pujols was designated for assignment early in the final season of his 10-year, $254 million contract.
Angels owner Arte Moreno released a statement about the decision:
Pujols, who ranks fifth in MLB history with 667 home runs, joined the Angels ahead of the 2012 season after spending the first 11 years of his career as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Although the 41-year-old Dominican Republic native was productive for much of the contract with L.A., highlighted by a 40-homer season in 2015, he didn't live up to the same standard he set in St. Louis. His highest OPS with the Halos was .859; his lowest OPS with the Cards was .906 in his final year with the club.
Pujols recorded five long balls through his first 24 appearances for the Angels this season, which equates to a 34-home run pace over a full campaign, but his other numbers lagged. He compiled a .622 OPS and had just two games with more than one hit as part of a .198 batting average.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reported there was a disagreement about the decision to bench Pujols for Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the release:
Mike DiGiovanna @MikeDiGiovanna
According to source, #Angels slugger Albert Pujols was upset that he wasn't in lineup to face #Rays bulk LHP Ryan Yarbrough last night, and that the decision to bench him came from front office, not MGR Joe Maddon. Pujols was 6 for 9 with 2 HR, 2 2Bs, 7 RBIs vs. Yarbough.
In February, the three-time NL MVP left open the possibility of playing beyond the end of his contract with Los Angeles.
"I think that decision will come at the end of the year," Pujols told reporters. "My mind is staying focused [on staying] healthy and help this ballclub try to win this year."
In the end, his contract didn't work out as the Angels hoped as they qualified for the playoffs just once during Pujols' tenure, a fact made more frustrating by the presence of MLB's gold standard, Mike Trout.
While the 10-time All-Star has struggled at the plate of late, he's remained a solid defender in recent years (four defensive runs saved in 2020, per FanGraphs), which gives him a wider range of potential landing spots in free agency since he's not restricted to being a designated hitter.
Pujols could still provide some late-career pop for a contender on a more team-friendly contract, but he may be asked to accept a lesser role without an everyday lineup spot.