Albert Pujols, who is recovering from surgery to his left knee (arthoscopic debridement to be exact) is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He will also be 39 next season and has three years left on his 10-year/$240 million contract. As each year goes by, he gets more expensive since he’s owed $87 million over those same three years. The question is “Will his bat be worth having in the lineup as his productivity has continued to decline the last few years?”
Well, how much has his offense exactly declined? You can definitely see it in his on base percentage. He used to get on base either by getting extra base hits or walking. He led the league in on base percentage in 2009 with an OBP of .443. He got on base almost half of the time that he was up which was insane. Unfortunately his last two seasons don’t even come close to that as he had paltry numbers of .286 and .289 respectively. 5 times in his career he had 92 or more walks in a season. However, he rarely walks nowadays (65 in the last two seasons combined) and he still grounds into a lot of double plays. His career average has fallen from .328 to .303, but he does gets his fair share of RBIs. Having Trout in front of him definitely helps his cause.
What has caused the sharp decline in his productivity? His lower body is beginning to age. Pujols had knee surgery after the 2012 season. He missed the final two months of 2013 because he tore his plantar fascia in his left foot. But he also had issues with his other foot as well as he got surgery on his right one after the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Now you can add his left knee surgery that ended his 2018 season to that list.
If Shohei Ohtani’s Tommy John surgery doesn’t affect his ability to hit in 2019, you can expect Pujols to be playing first base again. Will his body be able to handle it and will he be able to contribute to the Angels in a positive way? That remains to be seen.
The good news is that Albert hasn’t ruled out retirement if he feels like he can’t perform to his capabilities any more. Ironically he spoke with Alden Gonzalez of ESPN about this topic on August 7 last year before he missed the remainder of the season on August 29 due to his left knee surgery.
“When that time comes, it’s not even going to wait until the offseason,” Pujols said. “If I feel it during the season, I’m gone, dude. The day that I feel like I can’t compete in this game anymore, it doesn’t matter how much money I’m going to leave on the table. I’m done, bro. I’ve been blessed.
“One thing is to be out there and just stick around for the money. But to embarrass yourself, and not be able to compete — dude, that’s not me. I have accomplished so many things in this game that I could never even imagine. That drive of playing every day is still with me. I think it’s always going to be with me. What’s going to be tough, obviously, is your health.”
That sounds very humble and I hope he means what he says. In my opinion, Pujols should seriously consider retiring after the 2019 season if he is a non-factor in the lineup next year. He should end his career with dignity and allow the Angels #5 prospect Matt Thaiss to get a chance to be an every day first baseman in 2020. I love the Albert, I love the fact that he cares about his family, and I love the fact that he is a great man off the field. But he’s an expensive piece at first base and he needs to produce. There are 84 million reasons why.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Si.com