Albert Pujols has been gone from St. Louis for a long time now, but he still feels jilted by the Cardinals.
After being drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 draft out of a community college in Kansas City, Albert Pujols arrived in the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001 and started what will be a Hall of Fame career.
Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels after the 2011 season, so he’s now into his eighth season since leaving the Cardinals. He will visit Busch Stadium for the first time as an opposing player from June 21-23, and he had some things to say about how his time with the Cardinals came to an end.
During an interview on “In Depth With Graham Bensinger,” aired in syndication this past weekend, Pujols addressed his decision to leave the Cardinals. He also cited his lack of appreciation for the way the team handled contract negotiations, saying, “I felt that the approach that they took wasn’t showing me that they wanted me to be a longtime Cardinal.”
The Cardinals offered Pujols a $210 million over 10 years deal, and he added he turned down a big offer from the Miami Marlins. It seems like a marginal difference if he wanted to stay in St. Louis, from $21 to $24 million per year, but Pujols said he made the right decision.
Over his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols had a .328/.420/.617 slash-line with an OPS+ of 170, 445 home runs, 1,329 RBI, three NL MVP awards and six Silver Sluggers. He also played 155 games per season, and accounted for 86.6 bWAR. But a 10-year-deal was going to take him through his age-41 season, and the Angels have paid for Pujols’ decline phase.
Pujols hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 in his first season with the Angels, as he played 154 games (120 at first base). But the erosion started in 2013, as he played just 99 games and hit just .258. His power production has not completely gone away, with 28, 40, 31, 23 and 19 home runs over the last five seasons and at least 95 RBI four times in that span.
But Pujols has hit below .250 three times in that five-season span, as foot and knee problems have pushed him into frequently being a DH in order to keep what’s left of his bat in the lineup. The 40-homer season in 2015 helped him deliver a 3.0 bWAR, but over the last three full seasons Pujols has essentially been a replacement-level player (-0.1 bWAR). Counting this season, the Angels owe him $87 million through 2021.
It didn’t take a genius to predict a natural decline for Pujols as he entered his mid-to-late 30’s, even if the Angels were willing to pony up. The Cardinals were wise to set sentiment aside and make a good business decision in December of 2011, even if Pujols can’t quite let it go that he was allowed to leave.