JUPITER, Fla. — Back where it all began 21 years ago, Albert Pujols walked into the Cardinals spring training clubhouse Monday morning, found his red No. 5 jersey hanging for him and started over.
The three-time MVP, franchise icon and future Hall of Famer signed a one-year deal to return to the Cardinals as a hitter-designated.
He then confirmed that he will retire at the end of the season.
“That’s it for me,” said Pujols. “This is my last run.”
His close friend and teammate catcher Yadier Molina has also confirmed he will be retiring after the 2022 season.
Pujols, 42, is returning to the Cardinals, 21 home runs, just short of 700. He is already the only player in Major League Baseball history with at least 600 home runs, at least 3,000 hits and two World Series championships. He won both with the Cardinals pivoting their lineup in 2006 and 2011. Returning to the club that drafted and developed him, he couldn’t ignore his phenomenal spring of 2001.
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“Our goal, as always, is to try to win a league,” Pujols said during a press conference at Roger Dean Stadium to announce the contract.
Pujols will be paid $2.5 million this season, and the Cardinals plan to use him as a right-handed hitting option at DH or as a late-inning hitter off the bench.
The deal came quickly as the cardinals reached out in recent days, daytime talks picked up steam on Sunday and then reached an agreement late in the evening. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright said he heard a deal was struck around 8 p.m. local time and he was on FaceTime with Pujols to congratulate him within six minutes.
The deal reunites the Cardinals with one of the biggest hitters the franchise has ever produced. His three MVP awards, won with the Cardinals, equal Stan Musial’s total. Pujols led the National League in home runs, batting averages and RBIs from 2000 to 2010, just as Rogers Hornsby did for the club in his 1920s.
Pujols needs 18 home runs to surpass Alex Rodriguez and is behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds for career home runs. He is third all-time in RBIs with 2,150 and fourth with a total of 6,042 bases.
One of the three hitters ahead of him is Musial with 6,134.
The cardinals tried some theatricality with the introduction of pujols.
After passing a physical and finalizing the deal, Pujols entered Roger Dean Stadium after the first inning of play that afternoon. He was introduced to the crowd as the newest cardinal, and a standing ovation greeted him as he made his way onto the dugout in a uniform he hadn’t worn since 2011.
“This isn’t just a story about Albert coming back to St. Louis,” said manager Oliver Marmol. “This is a story about him coming back and helping us win a championship. His skill and leadership are very difficult to match and what he can achieve on this field and in this clubhouse is remarkable. We’re really looking forward to his return.”
This is breaking news and will be updated and expanded.