Albert Pujols Leaves Door Open on Potential Return to Cardinals Before Retiring

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2021

Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols tips his cap to the crowd before his final at bat of the night during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Sunday, June 23, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

Albert Pujols would consider a reunion with the St. Louis Cardinals prior to his retirement from MLB.

Speaking with USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the future Hall of Famer left the door open to a return to St. Louis when asked if he'd like to play for the Cardinals one last time.

"That's like the million-dollar question," Pujols said. "Everybody asks me that. Hey, I don't know what's going to happen. This is the last year of my contract, and I feel like I can play. I feel good. My body feels great. Mentally, I feel like I can continue to play. But I don't know, we'll see what happens. Who knows?"

Emotions were raw on both sides when Pujols left the Cardinals to sign with the Los Angeles Angels after the 2011 season.

That antipathy was gone by the time he stepped into the batter's box at Busch Stadium in 2019, his first game in St. Louis since departing. The legendary first baseman received a standing ovation and then took a moment to savor the adulation after hitting a solo home run.

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Pujols' contract with the Angels expires after this season, but bringing him back to St. Louis may not be on the Cardinals' radar, even if the National League were to adopt the designated hitter.

The 41-year-old still possesses some power but is otherwise a shadow of the player who won three National League MVPs from 2005 to 2009.

Pujols slugged just .395 in 39 games last season. Even if you write off 2020 on account of the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, his performance in previous years wasn't much better.

He has posted negative WAR in each of the last four seasons, per FanGraphs. His OPS with the Angels (.761) is nearly 300 points worse compared to his 11 seasons with the Cardinals (1.037).

St. Louis has an All-Star first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt, who is signed through 2024, and slotting Pujols into an everyday DH role doesn't make sense given his declining offense.

The next time he's wearing a Cardinals hat might be when his Hall of Fame plaque is unveiled in Cooperstown, New York.