Cardinals Rumors: St. Louis almost traded Albert Pujols in 2000

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Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinalslooks on at bat during the sixth inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 22, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinalslooks on at bat during the sixth inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 22, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals almost traded Albert Pujols in 2000 — and it makes you wonder how much different the last 20 years nearly were.

In perhaps the greatest “What if?” scenario in St. Louis Cardinals history, what would have happened had the team traded Albert Pujols?

Because it was a possibility — and almost happened. That’s right.

In an inside look into the Cardinals’ drafting of Pujols in 1999, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the front office nearly traded the future Hall of Fame slugger to the San Diego Padres in 2000. The deal, which would have sent catcher Carlos Hernandez to the Cardinals, was never made as former scouting director Jeff Scott said that he balked at trading either Pujols or outfielder Ben Johnson.

Let’s say that the trade was made. Would Pujols have gone on to have the career he’s had, which now features 700 home runs? Would Yadier Molina have been the Cardinals’ catcher for the last two decades?

The answer to the first question is most likely yes, that Pujols would have gone on to have such a prestigious career. The Molina question is interesting — my initial inclination would also be “yes” — but it’s not as definitive as the first question.

But the Cardinals are very fortunate that Scott was as adamant as he was about not trading Pujols, as his reign as the National League’s best player defined the last 20ish years of the franchise. He was the Cardinals. And in his return to St. Louis, he not only defied the odds of reaching 700 home runs, he’s been an incredibly impactful player.

Just look at his numbers. Pujols, 42, is hitting .264/.336/.524 with an .860 OPS, 21 home runs and 58 RBI. Just a reminder: he was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract that now looks like the biggest bargain in baseball.

Pujols has guided them to a near NL Central victory and into the postseason. With Pujols, nothing can be ruled out, especially a World Series run.

But it almost never happened — and provides the greatest “What if?” in Cardinals history.

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