When Albert Pujols signed his historical $225 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) prior to the 2012 season, many thought it was an absolutely absurd contract for many obvious reasons. Whether you wanted to look at the term or the money involved, there was no way it was going to be worth it for much of the latter part of the contract for any player in his 30s. However, few could have expected Pujols to struggle in the way that he has in his first two years in sunny California.
Widely regarded as the game’s best hitter in his days with the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols has struggled to put it together in his pair of seasons with the Halos. He wasn’t awful in 2012, but wasn’t the hitter we expected to see, and his 2013 was derailed almost completely be injury, as he failed to appear in even 100 games. Even going back to spring training last year, he was coming back from injury and his health status always seemed to be up in the air at points throughout the year.
Pujols’ first year in Orange County wasn’t terrible. He slashed .285/.343/.516/.859, but his strikeouts did jump up a bit and he walked at a much lower rate than he did at any point in St. Louis, with the exception of 2011. The power declined a bit as well as he jumped over to the American League, as his 30 home runs were the lowest total of his career. Of course, the 2013 season brought new lows for the (former) superstar first baseman.
Struggling to fight off nagging injuries, particularly the plantar fascia in his foot, Pujols made his way into just 99 games. His strikeout rate crept up just a little more, though he did manage to get on base via the walk just a bit more. His 0.7 WAR was easily the worst we’ve seen out of him at any point in his career. As he prepares to head into the third season of his decade long contract, it’s worth pondering whether or not he can rebound or if we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of Albert Pujols.
One would have to imagine though that if there’s some game left in him, we’re going to see it this year. He’s only 34, but there’s plenty of mileage on that body to date. The last two years have not been kind to him, and there’s no arguing against the fact that he’s a declining player. It’s just a matter of whether or not he can get back to a healthy enough state to be an impact player for the Angels. With his foot appearing to be at 100 percent and reportedly going through a normal offseason, signs point to yes. If he’s able to do so, the Angels are almost certainly a team that’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot out of the AL West.