In addition to a few stops to receive honors in a career filled with accomplishments not seen on the ballpark or beyond the outer walls in generations, Albert Pujols has devised a retirement plan that includes travel and sightseeing of some of the world he’s lost in his 22 years in Major League Baseball.
He said he wouldn’t leave the game behind, but what path he was on and the destination he was looking for for a second act in baseball was still ahead of him.
A future teammate with the Los Angeles Angels has an idea of where baseball will take him.
“I think the sky’s the limit for a guy,” said Angels general manager Perry Minassian when speaking to the Post-Dispatch at recent industry meetings in Las Vegas. “I think he can do whatever he wants as far as if he wants to go the club management route, I think he can do that. And he’d be really good at that. If he wants to work in the front office and run a club one day, I think he can do that. He’s That kind of guy.
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“Whatever he sets his mind to, he will accomplish.”
Pujols, who officially retired in October, will soon begin a contract that is the last of its kind in Major League Baseball — a 10-year personal services agreement with the Angels that pays him $1 million annually. The decade-long agreement was a sweetener to the 10-year, $240 million contract he signed that took him from a World Series champion with the Cardinals to a free agent with the Angels in December 2011. The players union and MLB agreed in 2012 to ban personal service contracts in part because Confusion caused if a player is traded or does not finish his career in the same jersey.
Reunited with the Cardinals for a euphoric 2022 season, Pujols has proven he can home run again—and again on his way to 700 career points and rising to second all-time in career RBIs and total bases. Over the summer, Pujols said he would “honor” the agreement with the Angels, and he reiterated that last weekend in St. Louis. The specific responsibilities of his role will be determined at a later date, but the rare deal invites those questions about what that means for the Cardinal’s reignited relationship with Pujols. He will be eligible for fans to vote for him into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2026, his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame will likely begin in July 2028, and somewhere in that time frame Pujols No. 5 is expected to be voted out of retirement by the Cardinals.
A source familiar with the language of the contract said, “There is nothing (in the contract) that precludes… being honored by the Cardinals” or participating in those events.
A spokesperson for the Angels, when asked by the Post-Dispatch about Pujols’ participation as an honoree or member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, reached out to team executives for clarity and replied, “In terms of Cardinals Hall of Fame activities, it’s something we will certainly discuss with both Albert and the Cardinals Organization.”
The Los Angeles Times described how the agreement “essentially gives the Angels exclusive rights to Pujols for the first 10 years of his retirement.” Club president John Carpino told the newspaper that Pujols will work with players in the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic and be present as a coach or mentor during spring training.
“He will be like an ambassador for the team,” Carbino recently told the Times.
When asked by a reporter if the contract would prevent Pujols from being involved in similar ways with the Cardinals—spring coaching appearances or advisory roles, for example—Caprino said, “Maybe.”
Cardinals Hall of Famer Chris Carpenter participated in the 2022 summer induction ceremony and field events while he was a staffer of the Angels. Carpenter was hired by the Angels as a pitching consultant prior to the 2022 season. Prior to his latest role as manager of the Chicago White Sox, Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was hired by the Angels as a front office consultant a few months before his expected appearance in the 2020 Cardinals’ Opening Day festivities, which The epidemic canceled it.
Cardinals icon Ozzie Smith’s contract with the Cardinals included a post-retirement personal services agreement that expired in 2006, and while he was rarely around the field during that time, he did events as an ambassador for the team.
At the end of his career, Nolan Ryan had a 10-year personal services contract with the Texas Rangers that overlapped with his induction into the Hall of Fame—where he wore his Rangers cap—and the number of his retirements with three teams. The Rangers retired the No. 34 in September 1996, two weeks before the Astros did the same. The Angels actually retired Ryan’s 30 in June 1992, and he then pitched eight innings against them for the Rangers.
An Angels official said he has seen players return to teams for honors, reunions, and other events and does not “see why that would be any different” for Pujols.
Minassian acknowledged Pujols’ relationship with the Cardinals.
“Very happy for him for what he was able to achieve this year, and it was a special year for him,” said the general manager. “He’s a special guy. I’d love to have him in the organization. He’ll be a good asset.”
Before negotiations with Pujols over an extension ended in 2011, the Cardinals explored whether they could offer him an ownership stake as part of the deal. The rule banning players had some flexibility and such creative options could be explored “if there was an opportunity for the club to sign or keep a player” the size of Pujols, the MLB official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post-Dispatch. Personal service contracts match this creativity, as do Alex Rodriguez’s outstanding bonuses with the Yankees and Pujols from the Angels. For reaching 3,000 hits, Pujols’ contract included a $3 million bonus, and if he had hit 763 hits, he would have won $7 million. These bonuses were described as “marketing” agreements – as they were canceled after the Pujols deal.
“It gets tricky if a team attaches a stipulation that says a player gets paid if he shakes 500 hands a week, plays golf with 11 sponsors and spends a month in spring training,” wrote Hall of Fame baseball writer Jason Stark. ESPN.com. “And if it gets traded, then what?”
After signing with the Angels, Pujols specifically mentioned the 10-year personal services contract as a key part of the appeal. He described how “Angels owner Arte Moreno made me feel like he wanted me to be with the Angels forever.”
It was halted for good in 2021 when Pujols was released by the Angels in May. After a refresher stint with the Dodgers, Pujols signed a one-year contract with his first team, the team that drafted him in the 13th round in 1999. He announced his intention to retire at the end of the season and then got a second half for the ages, finishing the year as the fourth player in history with 700 home runs. least — he hits 703 — and is second only to Hank Aaron in total bases (6,211) and RBIs (2,218). Pujols talked with his teammates about the “joy” he had in returning to St. Louis, what it meant to end his career by restoring his relationship with the team, with the city.
This past Saturday in St. Louis, at the Stan Musical Awards Gala, he received the event’s highest honor, the Stan Musical Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship. His foundation, a major reason he won the honor, is still active in St. Louis. Pujols may join MLB for Cardinals games in London, and he has other events with deep roots in St. Louis that will bring him back. On stage, he told the audience they would see him “around Busch Stadium”.
For the next 10 years, pending any change in his contract, Pujols would blend being an Angels employee and a great Cardinals, working with Los Angeles executives on the best ways to be both.
His retirement, like his legacy, has the wings of being an angel and a cardinal.
“I think anyone in that position would love to have a guy like him, whether he’s right next to you or you can pick up the phone and call him and ask him questions,” Minassian said. “You’d be crazy if you didn’t. I think he would do great things—whatever he chooses to do.”