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May 13—The greatest hitter of this era was released by the Los Angeles Angels this past week, sending shockwaves across all of Major League Baseball.

Albert Pujols, who is in the final season of his 10-year, $240-million contract, was designated for assignment as the Angels decided to use his roster spot on another player.

“The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and are honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall of Fame career,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said in a statement. “Albert’s historical accomplishments, both on and off the field, serve as an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and his actions define what it means to be a true superstar. Since his Rookie of the Year season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities throughout the world. We are thankful to the entire Pujols family.”

Pujols, now 41-years-old, was slashing .198/.250/.372 with five home runs this season, but he’s been a below-average hitter dating back to 2017. He’s dealt with numerous injuries since joining the Angels in 2012 and obviously doesn’t have the same spring in his step since his time with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Once he clears waivers, any team can sign him for the league minimum of $570,500 — the Angels are responsible for the remainder of his $30 million salary this year.

And then the debate will truly be on?

Who takes a chance on a future Hall of Famer?

The immediate potential landing spots that have been discussed are the Cardinals, Chicago White Sox and even the Kansas City Royals.

Even though it would make for a perfect ending to a magnificent career, a reunion with the Cardinals makes no sense with Paul Goldschmidt at first base and the lack of a DH in the National League.

It’s also hard to ignore White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s connection, too. He managed Pujols during his 11 years in St. Louis, and Chicago has been decimated by injuries (Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert).

But the issue is Pujols hasn’t played an inning in the outfield since 2003 and Yermin Mercedes has locked up the DH spot for the White Sox. Jose Abreu certainly won’t be supplanted at first base as well.

“There is no fit here, unfortunately,” La Russa told the media on Friday.

La Russa did sing the praises of his former superstar though.

“He wants to be playing,” La Russa added. “They’ll get a very determined Albert. I would never underestimate him. He is one of the game’s great, winning, competitive players.”

The Royals make some sense with Pujols’ local ties to the area. He attended high school and junior college in Independence, about 10 miles east of Kansas City. Royals manager Mike Matheny is also a former teammate of Pujols in St. Louis.

Again, Pujols clearly values everyday at-bats and would likely prefer heading to a contender. Kansas City got off to a torrid start but has since come back down to earth.

Without a clear fit, I think the most likely outcome for Pujols is retirement. It would be a shame that his career ends this way, but let’s face it: Teams have been avoiding one-dimensional first basemen/DH types for years.

While his Hall of Fame track record may get him an opportunity, Pujols hasn’t been a quality major-league hitter in a long time and any team that does give him a chance is more serious about selling tickets than winning.

The best way for Albert Pujols to go out is by signing a one-day contract and retiring as a St. Louis Cardinal.

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