Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh are in line to benefit the most from the Angels designating Albert Pujols for assignment.
General manager Perry Minasian told reporters Thursday that cutting Pujols was “more about Jared Walsh playing the right position (and) Shohei Ohtani being in the lineup on a daily basis.” Ohtani will be LA’s primary designated hitter when he isn’t pitching and Walsh is moving to first base full time after shuttling between there and right field.
“For us, now and moving forward, we feel like that’s the best club we have and that’s about the organization moving forward,” Minasian said.
Ohtani (.938 OPS) and Walsh (.988 OPS) outperformed Pujols in the first month-plus of the season. Pujols hit five home runs but put up just a .622 OPS (74 OPS+) in 92 plate appearances. Ohtani — who pitched five innings Wednesday — hit his 10th home run of the season Thursday against Rays left-hander Josh Fleming.
Minasian said that he began considering a move involving Pujols in late April.
“From a baseball operations standpoint, we had been discussing it over the last two weeks,” the first-year GM said. “Obviously, I’m new to the job, it’s been a month in(to the season). Having a chance to watch this club for a month, I felt more confident in my recommendation to ownership the more I watch.”
As to who will fill right field going forward, Taylor Ward has started two games in a row there after being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday. The right-handed-hitting Ward was in the lineup to face Tampa Bay left-handers Fleming and Ryan Yarbrough, the team’s “bulk” pitchers in those games.
LA also called up veterans Juan Lagares and Jon Jay from the minors this week and designated Scott Schebler for assignment. Lagares hits right-handed while Jay swings from the left side, so a platoon/timeshare among those two and Walsh is possible. None of them possess great power, however.
The Angels made Walsh the primary right fielder after Dexter Fowler suffered a season-ending ACL tear in April.