Albert Pujols, Cardinals set deadline

Updated: February 15, 2011, 10:43 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a noon ET Wednesday deadline for contract extension talks, general manager John Mozeliak said.

Mozeliak said he has been dealing with Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, and has not spoken personally with the slugger.

Pujols received and rejected a contract proposal from St. Louis two weeks ago and there has been no progress in the talks since then, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

Pujols, who is in the last year of his contract with the Cardinals, has said that if a deal is not reached by the time he reports for spring training on Wednesday, he will not negotiate again this season, explaining he wants no distractions during the season.

The two sides agreed to the 24-hour extension to reach a new contract out of respect for Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington on Tuesday.

Mozeliak said Monday the club did not want to distract from Musial's special day. Cardinals team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak will accompany the 90-year-old Musial to Washington.

The 31-year-old Pujols is seeking a contract, perhaps as long as a decade in length, that would make him one of the highest-paid players in the major leagues and allow him to retire as a Cardinal.

Even if a deal can't be reached by Wednesday, the Cardinals were hopeful of keeping the All-Star first baseman. Numerous times the past few seasons and again at last month's Winter Warm-Up fan festival in St. Louis, Pujols has expressed his desire to stay with the Cardinals.

Pujols is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs in his first 10 seasons, belting 42 with 117 RBIs last year while finishing second in MVP balloting behind the Reds' Joey Votto. He's had 100 RBIs all 10 seasons, has scored 100 runs in all except one season, finishing with 99 runs in 2007, and has drawn 100 walks in each of the past three seasons.

DeWitt has referred to Pujols as "irreplaceable," but he would be 41 at the end of a 10-year contract and presumably not nearly so productive.

Mozeliak would not characterize the tenor of the negotiations, sticking to an agreement about keeping the process private.

"Given the timing of everything we will remain quiet at this time," Mozeliak said. "I don't want to lead people on or characterize something one way or the other. Our approach has been pretty consistent since day one and that's to allow this to be done in a confidential state. Given we are only 48 hours from the deadline I'll remain that way."

Mozeliak said there was no frustration from the Cardinals' side.

"No, not at all," he said. "It's a process. It's an iconic player. When you experience going through this you learn a lot. Frustration isn't coming from us."

Neither Mozeliak nor manager Tony La Russa expects the Pujols situation to become a distraction if an agreement is not reached.

"Part of the big leagues is dealing with distractions," La Russa said. "Every club has them and the clubs that give in to them are soft and weak. The clubs that are strong put the distractions where they belong, which is not to be distracted. Whatever the distractions are, our club is not going to have that excuse."

The understanding within the St. Louis front office is that Pujols will not accept any trade going forward, sources told Olney on Jan. 29. 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, in which case the Cardinals run the risk of losing him.

Information from ESPN's Bob Holtzman and ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney was used in this report.

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