- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Other teams have asked the Cardinals about Albert Pujols in the past, making sure that if St. Louis ever thought about dealing the perennial MVP candidate, the inquiring team's interest was established.
The Cardinals have never really pursued any of that trade discussion.
But no matter what happens in the last days of negotiations before Pujols arrives at the Cardinals' camp in spring training, the slugger will not be traded.
The understanding within the St. Louis front office is that Pujols will not accept any trade going forward, according to sources. He has the right to veto any trade proposal, and would do so.
This means there are only two possible results in the negotiations in the Pujols talks: Either he signs a contract extension with the Cardinals, or he will become a free agent this coming fall.
Pujols and the Cardinals are negotiating under the player's deadline of Feb. 19, the first day he arrives in training camp. After he begins spring training, Pujols does not want his agent, Dan Lozano, to discuss a contract with the Cardinals because he doesn't want to have any distractions, a stance he has taken throughout his career.
What happens after that remains to be seen, but the choices facing the Cardinals are expensive in different ways. Either St. Louis will negotiate a deal along the lines what Pujols has asked for -- probably something in the neighborhood of the 10-year, $275 million deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in fall 2007 -- or the Cardinals will pay for the backlash after Pujols walks away.
If Pujols departs as a free agent, the Cardinals would get two draft picks in return.
But it's doubtful they ever could make up for the lost production.
In every season he has played, Pujols's OPS has ranged from .955 to 1.115. Pujols has never failed to hit at least 32 homers or drive in at least 103 runs, and in nine of his 10 seasons his on-base percentage has never been under .403.
Buster Olney is a senior MLB writer for ESPN The Magazine.
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