The Los Angeles Dodgers and future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols are in agreement on a major league contract, sources told ESPN on Saturday.
The deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, isn't expected to become official until Monday, a source said. When it does, the Dodgers will pay Pujols only the prorated portion of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season, roughly $420,000, a sum that will be subtracted from the $30 million salary that is being paid to him by the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Angels on May 6 and was officially released after clearing waivers on Thursday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on Pujols prior to Saturday's game because the deal has not been officially announced.
With the defending World Series champion Dodgers, Pujols, 41, is expected to be mostly used as a late-game pinch hitter. But he could also get some playing time at first base with everyday first baseman Max Muncy capable of playing second and third base.
Pujols' presence, coupled with Muncy's versatility, makes it easier for the Dodgers to either rest Justin Turner or temporarily back off Gavin Lux, the young second baseman who has struggled thus far.
Only 41 of Pujols' 12,486 career regular-season plate appearances have come as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers expect him to help a young, inexperienced bench.
His right-handed bat might also help a team that entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers, 136 points fewer than its OPS against righties. Pujols is batting only .198/.250/.372 in 92 plate appearances this season and has been a below-average hitter by park-adjusted OPS since 2017. But he owns an .878 OPS against lefties in 2021, and his .513 expected slugging percentage suggests he has also been running into some bad luck.
In 18 plate appearances under what Baseball-Reference identifies as late-and-close situations, Pujols owns a .313/.389/.500 slash line.
Pujols, who hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing beyond 2021, ranks fifth in career homers (667), second in RBIs since they became an official stat in 1920 (2,112) and 14th in hits (3,253). He has won three National League MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers and has been invited to 10 All-Star Games.
His first decade with the St. Louis Cardinals -- consisting of a .331/.426/.624 slash line, 408 home runs and 1,230 RBIs -- stands as arguably the greatest 10-year run in baseball history. In Year 11, he finished fifth in NL MVP voting and won his second World Series ring.
But his prime didn't really make it to Anaheim. His 2012 season began with a mystifying 27-game homerless drought, his 2013 season was spoiled by plantar fasciitis, and the subsequent years featured a progressively diminished version of one of baseball's greatest players.
Pujols averaged 30 home runs and 105 RBIs from 2014 to 2017, but his slash line dropped to .257/.310/.448. From 2018 to 2021, he batted .239/.290/.414 and was worth a total of negative-0.1 Baseball-Reference wins above replacement.
The Angels ultimately released Pujols because Shohei Ohtani was locked in as the designated hitter and they wanted to make Jared Walsh the everyday first baseman. Keeping Pujols in a bench role wasn't an option, the Angels said, because Pujols wanted to play more regularly.
The Dodgers won't afford him that opportunity. The team was explicit about that before signing him and believe he is on board with a role that will consist mostly of driving in runs off the bench, a source said.
"I'm happy for him. I knew he would get an opportunity somewhere. I'm good friends with him. I'm happy for him,'' longtime Angels teammate Mike Trout said after a 9-0 loss in Boston.
Pujols will now go from a team that hasn't won a postseason game in 12 years to one that plays 30 miles north and has won eight consecutive NL West titles.
He becomes the fourth former MVP on the current Dodgers roster, joining Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Dodgers are the fourth team in MLB history to feature four former MVP winners, joining the 1978 Reds, 1982 Angels and most recently the 1996 Red Sox. They also have three former Cy Young Award winners: Kershaw, Trevor Bauer and David Price.