Yadier Molina had just one question for John Mozeliak, St. Louis’ president of baseball operations, when the latter informed him that Albert Pujols would be returning to the Cardinals for the 2022 season.
“What took you so long?”
The Cardinals did not enter the spring thinking they would be bringing back Pujols — a two-time World Series champion, three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star (nine of which came with St. Louis) — for one last go before he retires. While the front office was pursuing more bench depth, Mozeliak was also committed to making sure the organization’s top hitting prospects in Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Brendan Donovan were seeing substantial at-bats. But as time passed, and the 42-year-old Pujols remained unsigned, strategy began to change. And once the organization decided to reach out to their old friend, the decision to re-sign him became a no-brainer.
On March 28, the Cardinals inked Pujols to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, bringing a beloved franchise icon home for what will be the final season of his 22-year career. Pujols, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, knew all along he wanted to come back to St. Louis. But the timing, the situation and the role had to be right. Things had to align perfectly for both sides.
In the end, it took just 48 hours of cross-country communication for the Cardinals to bring Pujols home. Here’s how they pulled it off.
It wasn’t unusual when Molina reached out and FaceTime’d Pujols on March 26 from the Cardinals’ spring training clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla. The two, described by Molina as brothers, have been in constant communication since Pujols left St. Louis for the Los Angeles Angels following the Cardinals’ last World Series win in 2011.
“We stay in touch probably two, three times a week,” Molina explained.
Molina wanted to know what Pujols was up to. Pujols had not been picked up by a team, though there were a few with interest and at least one potential deal on the table. More precisely, though, Molina wanted to know why Pujols wasn’t a Cardinal yet.