Major League Baseball

Albert Pujols agrees to deal with Dodgers, but is he a good fit?

May 15

For his next job, Albert Pujols just had to turn his gaze a little bit up the road.

The future Hall of Famer, who was released by the Los Angeles Angels on May 6, reached an agreement on a major-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.

The news stunned the baseball world and caused a flood of reactions across Los Angeles and beyond, leaving many wondering how the 41-year-old slugger would fit in on the defending World Series champions’ roster.

And the question of where Pujols will play is an excellent one and entirely fair considering his lack of defensive flexibility. While Pujols came up with the St. Louis Cardinals as a corner infielder/outfielder in 2001, he has played almost exclusively first base or designated hitter for the past decade-plus.

That fact had many assuming he would end up with an American League team, as NL teams are not playing with a DH this season.

But while Pujols is not flexible defensively, the Dodgers possess many players who are, which could give them some wiggle room when it comes to fashioning a lineup that includes Pujols.

One such versatile player is primary first baseman Max Muncy, who has played 123 games at second base in his career, plus another 106 at third base.

Furthermore, regular second baseman Gavin Lux, just 23, is hitting only .143 against left-handed pitchers. One could see a scenario where the right-handed-hitting Pujols plays first base against lefties, with Muncy moving to second base and Lux heading to the bench.

This makes even more sense when you consider that the Dodgers have only a .663 OPS with 11 home runs against left-handed pitchers this season, compared to a .799 OPS with 33 home runs against righties. Also, the right-handed bats currently on the bench have struggled, with Sheldon Neuse hitting just .189, and DJ Peters at .111.

It’s questionable how much of an upgrade Pujols would be, as he is hitting just .198 this season after hitting .224 in 2020. But he has shown some power in limited time against lefties this season, sporting an .878 OPS with three home runs in 28 plate appearances vs. southpaws.

It might seem unlikely that Pujols would start regularly, but he could improve the Dodgers' bench – acting as a pinch-hitter against left-handed relievers – and spell Muncy at first base when he has a favorable matchup.

So that seems to be the play the Dodgers are making.

And in truth, it doesn’t cost them much. The Dodgers only have to pay Pujols a pro-rated minimum salary, with the Angels on the hook for the rest of his $30 million contract. If it doesn’t work out, the Dodgers can simply release him.

The Dodgers, who started the season hot before cooling dramatically, entered Saturday's games in third place in the NL West, two games behind the San Francisco Giants at 21-17.

Here are some other reactions across the baseball world to the huge news.

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