Albert Pujols may opt to leave the World Series-champion St. Louis Cardinals to join the Chicago Cubs and their new head of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, according to oddsmakers.
Pujols, a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, became a free agent after the Cardinals’ World Series win over the Texas Rangers. Pujols, 31, has spent his entire 11-year Major League Baseball career with the Cardinals.
“Whatever decision I make hopefully is the best decision I make for my family and the fans and everybody,” Pujols told reporters last week after helping the Cardinals to capture their second championship in six years.
The Cubs are listed as the 7-4 favorites to sign Pujols, according to Antigua-based sports gambling website Bodog, followed by the Cardinals at 2-1.
The Cubs last week hired Epstein, who built two World Series-winning teams in nine seasons as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, to oversee a franchise that hasn’t won a championship since 1908, baseball’s longest drought.
Even with the sixth-highest player payroll in the major leagues, the Cubs had a 71-91 record this year and finished fifth of six teams in the National League’s Central division. Chicago was 25 games behind first-place Milwaukee and 19 games behind the wild card-winning Cardinals.
The Cubs, who haven’t won a postseason game since 2003, had Carlos Pena at first base for 153 games this season. Pena hit .225 with a team-leading 28 home runs and batted in 80 runs while striking out 161 times.
Two Gold Gloves
Pujols, who has won two Gold Gloves for his defense at first base, is a career .328 hitter who’s averaged more than 40 home runs and 120 runs batted in per season. Pujols hit .299 this season and led the Cardinals with 37 homers and 99 RBI. It was the first time he’s failed to top 100 RBI in a season.
Following the World Series, Pujols said his next contract was the “last thing” he was thinking about.
“I’m just going to enjoy the moment and celebrate with the guys and pretty much just thank my teammates that helped me out to accomplish another world championship,” Pujols said. “Because at the end of your career, those are the sweeter moments that you take.”
A winning $100 bet on Pujols joining the Cubs would return $175, along with the initial stake. A successful $100 wager on him staying with St. Louis would yield a $200 profit, according to the odds at Bodog.
The Los Angeles Angels are the third-favorite to sign Pujols, with 9-2 odds, according to Bodog. They’re followed by the Washington Nationals at 7-1, the New York Yankees, Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers at 12-1, the Texas Rangers at 15-1 and the Toronto Blue Jays at 30-1.