Free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols is reportedly drawing interest from the St. Louis Cardinals, the club with which he spent the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame career, after being released by the Los Angeles Angels.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the update Saturday.
Pujols has showcased some pop this season, tallying five home runs in 24 games, but his other numbers at the plate have lagged. He sported a .198 batting average and .622 OPS when the Angels designated him for assignment last week.
L.A. manager Joe Maddon suggested the club had little choice since Pujols resisted becoming a reserve and the team needed to give at-bats to Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani.
"The real conclusion was that we had to get Jared Walsh in there at first base consistently. And Ohtani as the DH, based on a lot of different reasons that you're recognizing right now," Maddon told Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville on The Athletic Baseball Show's Starkville podcast. "And Albert really not being satisfied with being a bench player. So that's really what it comes down to. It's honestly no more complicated than that."
A return to St. Louis would not present Pujols with a full-time spot.
The Cardinals feature Paul Goldschmidt at first base, and the National League doesn't have the benefit of the designated hitter this season after the experiment during the coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Pujols hasn't played another position on a regular basis since patrolling left field for the Cards across 113 games in 2003, and it's unlikely he has the mobility to switch back at this stage of his career.
St. Louis ranks fifth in MLB with a 23-16 record, so Pujols could return as the team's primary pinch hitter and receive one or two starts a week to give Goldschmidt a rest. But if he wants his name on the lineup card every night, his best chance would likely be with an American League club.
Robert Murray of FanSided reported Friday three to four teams have shown interest in the 41-year-old Dominican Republic native.
Pujols was one of MLB's best players during his stint with the Cardinals. He earned nine All-Star selections, was voted NL MVP three times and won a pair of World Series titles. While he remained a solid contributor for most of his time with L.A., he never lived up to that elite standard after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract.
He's compiled a lackluster .694 OPS since the start of the 2017 season, which will make it difficult for Pujols to find a starting job and could increase his chances of returning to the Cards in a smaller role.