Report: Cardinals, Pujols have no chance to sign deal before deadline

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols stands as members of the team assemble for the team photo shoot before a game against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 17, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Jon Heyman decided to ruin Cardinals fans’ day with this little nugget of information via his Twitter:

word is, albert pujols and #cardinals are so far apart there is virtually no chance for a deal by his feb. 16 deadline

This isn’t surprising news. The Cardinals are clearly dragging their feet in hopes that Pujols will slip, fall, hit his head and wake up wanting to take less than $275 million over 10 years. But Pujols’ camp has already stated that his previous contract was at a discounted rate and now the slugger wants to get paaaaaid.

Pujols wants contract talks to halt once he shows up for spring training on February 16, so this is shaping up to be the distraction of the season. He won’t want to talk about becoming a free agent in 2012, but the media will be relentless with their questioning throughout the season. Are you still talking to the Cardinals about a contract extension? Do you want to play in St. Louis? Have you given any thought to where you’d like to play next season? Will you become a Yankee?

Ugh. I’m already dizzy just thinking about it.

Of course, the bottom line is that the Cardinals do have him under contract for one more year. So his deadline of February 16 is rather moot. Things could change rather quickly and if the Cards and Pujols can come to some sort of a comprise during the year, then great. Just because the Feb. 16 deadline comes and goes doesn’t mean that the slugger is destined to become a free agent at the end of the year. Granted, things don’t look good now but you never know what will happen three months from now.

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Pujols disappointed with slow pace of negotiations with Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols sits in the dugout watching the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 4, 2010. Cincinnati won the game 6-1. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Albert Pujols began negotiations with the Cardinals for a long-term contract over a month ago, yet the two sides appear no closer to agreeing to a deal today as they were back then. And according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this has left Pujols feeling disappointed with the process.

DeWitt has maintained that he believes the window for negotiations could remain open through spring training. However, implementation of the deadline in the first place probably reflected growing frustration by Lozano and his client about the virtual absence of negotiations last spring training and earlier this winter.

At his client’s urging, Lozano has offered little public comment during the last 11 months about the process. However, that hasn’t prevented sources close to Team Pujols from noting the first baseman’s disappointment over a process that has never reached high gear.

As an outsider, it feels like the Cardinals are dragging their feet. Maybe they’re hoping that the longer they wait, Pujols will eventually accept a “discount” to stay in St. Louis. But as it stands right now, Pujols’ camp has stayed steadfast in saying they want a deal similar to A-Rod’s 10-year, $275 million contract or the best player in baseball will test the free agency market in 2012.

This situation is complicated but the decision is rather clear-cut. Either the Cardinals pony up and pay Pujols one of the richest contracts in baseball history or they allow him to walk and face intense public scrutiny. There aren’t any other options as the situation current stands, because Pujols has already put the kibosh on any potential trade.

Cardinals want Pujols’ deal to be less than eight years?

Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo is struck in the head with a bat by St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols in the first inning in St. Louis on October 1, 2010. Olivo left the game and went to a local hospital to be checked. UPI/Bill Greenblatt’s Jon Heyman reports that the Cardinals want Albert Pujols’ contract extension to be eight years or less.

The baseball people who are closely following the talks see this situation as difficult to predict and say the early signs are that the sides aren’t all that close to a deal at present. Despite a quick deadline and a lack of proof that there’s serious progress to date, a majority of baseball people still figure the sides will work it out, partly because of the belief that Pujols is worth more to St. Louis than anyone else, and the lack of an obvious outside suitor for an Alex Rodriguez-type deal (see below).

While neither side is talking publicly, early word is that Pujols has used A-Rod’s contract, the richest in baseball and one that guarantees him least $275 million over 10 years (and could be worth as much as $305 million if he hits all his landmark home-run numbers), as the only comp. That comes as no surprise as Pujols is widely considered the best player in the game.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are said to have initially suggested a contract that would guarantee Pujols at least a bit less than $200 million. The exact particulars of their offer or offers aren’t known, but there is a belief around the game that the Cardinals are hoping to keep the deal to seven years or less. In an interview with at the winter meetings, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt strongly suggested he had no intention of making a 10-year offer and opined that the Yankees had to “regret” such a deal. writes that Pujols’ camp wants a new deal done by spring training or else they will begin planning for the 2012 free agency period. The Cardinals don’t want that, but they still have to be somewhat fiscally responsible.

Obviously they want their superstar to be a Cardinal for life, but St. Louis isn’t a big market club. The Cards don’t want to shell out $300 million over the course of 10 years to retain Pujols, only to watch the Cubs or Reds win the NL Central every season because they can’t field a team around him.

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