Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout said Friday he "broke down a little bit" after longtime teammate Albert Pujols was designated for assignment by the club Thursday.
"It hit me a little bit," Trout told reporters. "It hit me a lot. Ever since I've been up here, he's been my guy."
The three-time AL MVP added:
"It was tough. I think we were all in shock when the news broke and when we found out about it. But after talking to Albert, and the competitor Albert is, he wants to play every day. You can tell when he's not playing, he wants to be out there with the team. I hope he finds a team that can let him play every day and what his body allows him to do, because he's a competitor. You want him out there. It was a tough situation, but Albert is in a good place, and that's all you can ask for."
Pujols, 41, declined comment about the Angels' decision, but the club's brass said the 10-time All-Star wasn't interested in shifting to a bench role amid the final season of his 10-year, $240 million contract, which left the front office little choice but to let him go, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
"He does not want to be a bench player of any kind," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's got a lot of pride."
General manager Perry Minasian added: "There was no fight. There was no argument. It was a conversation that went back and forth. He understood where we stood on the same situation."
Pujols had displayed some pop early in the campaign with five home runs through 24 appearances, but his other numbers at the plate continued their downward trend. He posted a career-low .665 OPS in 2020, and that figure has dropped to .622 so far in 2021.
Add in the fact that L.A. was working to get Jared Walsh—a first baseman by trade who was playing right field to keep his bat in the lineup—more consistent playing time, and it made sense for the sides to go their separate ways.
It's hard to predict whether Pujols will be able to find a full-time starting job elsewhere.
A return to the St. Louis Cardinals would be a storybook ending to his career, but they have Paul Goldschmidt and don't have the benefit of the DH, so that doesn't seem likely.
While he searches for a new baseball home, the Angels will move forward without one of their lineup stalwarts for the past decade.
Pujols arrived in Los Angeles in 2012, just as Trout was starting his ascent to become MLB's gold standard. It created championship-level expectations, but the club couldn't deliver a title during their partnership.