Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s first-baseman Albert Pujols underwent surgery recently on his right foot. Yesterday the Angels’ twitter account reported the operation and claimed that it occurred last week. The former All Star has been plagued with plantar fasciitis issues in recent years among other injuries. Many reports are indicating a four-and-a-half month long recovery period will be required. This will likely jeopardize his availability for opening day in 2016. His post-op instructions prohibit baseball-related activities until at least late March. Although he is a veteran player who is accustomed to the big leagues, missing Spring Training for next season will hold him out of the team’s lineup to begin the 2016 season.
Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels prior to the 2012 campaign. Surprisingly he has only missed minimal time in each of his four seasons since joining the Angels. He has played more than 150 games three times, but in 2013 he managed only 99. That year, he was forced to give the partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot multiple months to rest. Pujols has struggled with injuries to his feet throughout his career and this recent operation is clearly no exception. Pujols’ surgery repaired the plantar plate, a thick ligament-type structure that sits between the toe bones and the arch of the foot. The pain was extensive down the final stretch of the 2015 season forcing Pujols to become the team’s designated hitter for the final weeks. His competitive nature and commitment to his teammates is what managed to keep him in the lineup. His team was fighting tooth and nail for the final playoff spot and ultimately would be eliminated on the final day of the regular season. Had the Angels struggled and been eliminated sooner it is quite possible that Pujols would have sat out and potentially avoided the surgery altogether.
The Angels remain fortunate that they do have a relatively successful option to turn to at first base should Pujols miss the opening of the 2016 season or require more time at the DH position. C.J. Cron batted a respectable .262 last season in 378 at bats and will remain Pujols replacement for 1B/DH playing time.
In a contract as large as the one Pujols inked, injuries are certainly a very real and frustrating issue for teams. His ability to return to playing condition and remain in the everyday lineup in 2016 will certainly be an area to monitor. The All-Star slugger is coming off of arguably his most successful season in an Angels uniform after reaching the 40-homer mark for the seventh time in his career and first since 2010 with the St. Louis Cardinals. After losing Josh Hamilton very early in the 2015 season the Angels certainly could not bear to lose their veteran first baseman’s offensive production as well.
With four of his 10 years of service to the Angels completed, it is hard to argue that Pujols’ contract has been a disappointment up to this point. He has missed relatively little time for someone who is in his mid-30’s. As with any long-term contract, however, the final years will be the most indicative ones. Not only are the final years the ones in which Pujols is set to earn the most money, but he is more injury prone as he continues to age. If he continues to be a blue-chip first baseman with stellar defense and dangerous power at the plate he will turn out to be exactly what the Angels paid for.