In a sense, he’s a player who “got away” from the KC Royals. His case is as notorious as that of Mike Trout, the Angels’ future Hall of Famer the club passed on in the 2009 draft when they took Aaron Crow in the first round.
Nevertheless, not drafting Albert Pujols in 1999 was, at least in hindsight, a miss.
Like Trout, Pujols is a Cooperstown lock. The numbers tell the indisputable story: Pujols boasts a career .297/.375/.544 line (that 21-season OBP kind of jumps out, doesn’t it?), his 679 home runs rank fifth on the all-time list, and he’s averaged over 100 RBIs for 21 seasons (2,150 total).
He’s also a 10-time All-Star selection, three-time National League Most Valuable Player, and 2001 NL Rookie of the Year; he owns six Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.
But career numbers mean less when the end of the line looms for even Hall-of-Famers-to-be. The Angels knew that when they released Pujols last May, but the crosstown Dodgers signed him despite his .198 average. The gamble paid some dividends—Pujols hit .254 with 12 homers in 85 games and helped the Dodgers to the postseason.
Pujols played out the final year of his contract this year, but indications are he wants to return to the majors in 2022. Unless the Dodgers’ belief in him runs so deep they bring him back for another season, or the Cardinals, with whom he enjoyed his finest years, reunite with him for one sentimental season, or the players and owners agree to extend the DH to the National League, Pujols’ best hope for lengthening his career is the AL, where aging sluggers go to become designated hitters.
Should Kansas City have interest in him?
His ties to the area aren’t enough for the KC Royals to pursue Albert Pujols.
That Kansas City failed to draft Pujols isn’t shocking. After all, he wasn’t claimed until the 13th round, so every other big league team also whiffed.
But what made the Royals’ omission a bit surprising are Pujols’ ties to their territory. He spent some of his teen years in nearby Independence, starred at Fort Osage High, and played for Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods. Drafting the local player would have been popular with area fans.
But those connections, and making up for a chance the club missed, don’t justify pursuing Pujols now. The KC Royals simply have no place for him—unless they trade first baseman Carlos Santana, who plays the only defensive position Pujols does (except for a rare appearance at third), and they’re not quite ready to install Nick Pratto there if Santana somehow leaves, Hunter Dozier at 30 is a better choice at that corner than Pujols will be in his age 42 season.
Pujols, then, would have nowhere to play but DH, and the club has enough players who can do that job.
So, Kansas City, which must address some concerns this winter, needn’t give Pujols a call. Seeing him with the club might be fun for a time, but KC’s other options are better. The Royals had their chance once, but that ship sailed long, long ago.
Albert Pujols will likely be a free agent soon. The KC Royals shouldn’t take a chance on him.