Albert Pujols is probably the best pure hitter and one of the four best all-around players I’ve ever seen (I’ll get to the other three in a minute). He was either the best or second best player in the game for more than a decade and he led the Cardinals to three pennants and two World Series wins. He’s seventh all time with 614 home runs, he ranks ninth all time with 1,918 RBI, and his 99.4 career WAR is the twelfth-highest among position players since WWII. He also has grounded into a record 362 double plays, most of them in the last five years, and has contributed a measly 12.9 of his 99.4 WAR in his six years in Anaheim. In 2017, he actually had a negative WAR. Alex Rodriguez, while getting paid about the same amount of money as Pujols, had a better year without playing a single game.
The Angels finished five games out of a playoff spot this season, which is the closest they’ve come to the postseason since they won the division in 2014, and they did so in a year in which Mike Trout missed 48 games. In other words, the Angels are a pretty good team. They’ve got a young pitching staff with potential — Parker Bridwell is someone I’d keep an eye on — Andrelton Simmons is still the best defensive shortstop in the world, their lineup is better than you think, and they’ll have the resurgent Justin Upton for a full season. I like them as a sleeper for 2018.
Albert Pujols can help them make the playoffs next year. By not playing. He played 149 games last year and hit 23 home runs while slugging .386. Those are not acceptable numbers from a designated hitter whose only virtue at this point is his power. He has hit 169 home runs since he came to Southern California, which isn’t bad, but his slash line in that time is .262/.319/.459. [For a frame of reference, his slash line in St. Louis was .328/.420/.617.] He has four years left on his monstrous contract and since the Angels are on the hook for it anyway, Pujols could do himself and the team a big favor by hanging up his cleats. The Angels have money to spend, despite owing Pujols a remaining $96 million, and while they don’t have the prospects to trade for Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Santana and Mike Moustakas would look good in Angel red. So would J.D. Martinez, who could rotate at DH with fellow outfielders Upton and Kole Calhoun. But with Pujols sucking up at-bats and grounding into double plays, the Angels have limited flexibility. They’ve had a lousy decade and Mike Trout’s greatness is being wasted in obscurity playing for a losing team. The man they used to call ‘The Machine’ should help out his teammate — and make himself look really good — by not taking up a roster spot. We can all see him in Cooperstown in 2023.
I mentioned that Pujols was one of the four best players I’ve ever seen. The others are, in order, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. I don’t especially have any more to say about that group, except that all of them were amazing in their twenties and had a tremendous drop-off after they signed big contracts in their thirties. All, that is, except Bonds. Hmm. I wonder what he did differently.