Arbitration filing is expected

Updated: January 19, 2004, 7:33 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols wants a long-term contract from the St. Louis Cardinals, and he doesn't plan to give them a bargain.

"What do you mean?" Pujols said Sunday at the team's annual winter fanfest. "This is business. There's no break here.

"You try to get what you deserve and that's what I want. I've taken care of my business in the field the last three years and hopefully I get treated respectfully, that's all I ask for."

Pujols, who won his first NL batting title and finished second in MVP balloting behind Barry Bonds last season, expects to file for arbitration Tuesday.

Both he and the Cardinals anticipate Pujols, 24, will win a record arbitration award.

The Cardinals reportedly offered Pujols a $55 million, five-year contract. Pujols refused to discuss the status of talks.

"It's a tough negotiation because it's obviously a player that has never been in this category before," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "There are very few comparables."

In 1997, Mark McGwire signed for less than market value with the Cardinals, soon after joining them in a trade from Oakland. But Pujols, who batted .359 last season with 43 home runs, 124 RBIs and 137 runs scored, doesn't plan to do the same.

After watching the team allow Eduardo Perez and Miguel Cairo to leave as free agents this offseason and seeing the Cardinals trade J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero, Pujols said it might be best not to get too attached.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to work out," Pujols said. "It's great to stay with one team and not get traded.

"I love the city, I love the fans, but also you need to understand this is business. Next year I could be somewhere else."

The Cardinals don't see that happening. Manager Tony La Russa said the team wanted to make Pujols a "Stan Musial, where he plays his whole career here."

Pujols said he won't let his contract status affect his play. He made $900,000 last year, the largest one-year deal for a third-year player, and is due for a huge raise no matter what happens.

"I've been getting ready working out, and I'm not even thinking about it," Pujols said. "It doesn't matter how much money I'm going to make, the money is not going to change the way I play the game."

La Russa has no worries about Pujols' commitment. The only question is where he'll play.

Pujols, who played left field last year, likely will move to first base after Tino Martinez was traded to the Devil Rays. But Pujols played four positions regularly in each of his first two seasons and he's willing to play wherever he's needed.

"It doesn't matter to me until we break camp and we start the season, and even then during the season if somebody goes down and I have to move to the outfield, I'll do it," Pujols said. "Because I'm a teammate guy."

Pujols was limited in his throws last year by a sprained elbow ligament. He said he's been throwing without problems for almost a month and a half.

"It feels fine," Pujols said. "It doesn't bother me at all."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press