Will Dodgers regret letting Albert Pujols return to Cardinals?

Thomas Carannante
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 07: Albert Pujols #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives a standing ovation from the fans before his first at-bat in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 7, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 07: Albert Pujols #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives a standing ovation from the fans before his first at-bat in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 7, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /
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Though Los Angeles Dodgers fans had a hunch that Albert Pujols wouldn’t be returning to the team in 2022, the reality has fully set in. The future Hall of Famer has rejoined the St. Louis Cardinals, where it all began, on a one-year deal after just 85 games with the Dodgers.

And now we must ask: will Los Angeles regret letting such a prominent and influential clubhouse presence (and lefty masher!!) leave for just $2.5 million?

Is it more worthwhile to give Hanser Alberto a roster spot? Or Edwin Rios? Or Danny Duffy? We’re genuinely asking … because it really doesn’t seem like those should be the preferred moves.

The addition of Freddie Freeman further crowded the first base position, with Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Rios all capable of above-average defense there. However, with Muncy’s UCL injury, Bellinger’s (seemingly) continued offensive slide, and Rios coming off shoulder surgery (and already turning 28 years old in a few weeks), why wouldn’t Pujols have been somewhat of a priority?

Did the Dodgers make a mistake letting Albert Pujols go to the Cardinals?

On top of being well-respected in the Dodgers’ clubhouse — countless players on the team talked about his value in that role — Pujols was a key lineup weapon due to his success against left-handed pitchers. Check out his splits:

  • vs. RHP – .180 average, .500 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI in 150 plate appearances
  • vs LHP – .294 average, .939 OPS, 13 HR and 34 RBI in 146 plate appearances

Deploying him as the late man off the bench to face such situations while keeping his knowledge of the game and overall experience on the roster alongside so many of the game’s best players and rising stars just really seemed like a prudent idea for the health of the team in 2022.

Instead? $8.5 million for Andrew Heaney. $7 million for Daniel Hudson. $8 million for Tyler Anderson. $3 million for Danny Duffy (who won’t pitch for at least half the year). A bit confusing, no?

Pujols also delivered in “high-leverage” situations, to the tune of a .327 average and .813 OPS in 59 plate appearances. With runners in scoring position? .301 average and .855 OPS in 83 plate appearances. The definition of highly effective despite being used sparingly, which is exactly what you need out of a bench piece.

But maybe it was never in the cards and he had always planned to return to St. Louis. Yeah, we’ll stick with that narrative. It’ll make fans feel better.

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