Pujols ends negotiations with Cardinals
The deadline for first baseman Albert Pujols signing a contract extension with the Cardinals passed without the two sides reaching agreement.
The failure to complete a contract extension by Pujols’ deadline of noon ET on Wednesday means that, barring a sudden turn of events, Pujols will play out his final season as a Cardinal as a pending free agent.
The Cardinals can negotiate with Pujols exclusively after the season ends, but at that point he would be only weeks away from the open market.
Pujols is expected to arrive in Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla. on Thursday.
”We are greatly disappointed at this outcome,” Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr. said at a news conference. ”We will revisit it again following the 2011 season, at which time we will again make every effort to keep him as a Cardinal.”
Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract’s final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest.
‘We felt very good about the offer we made,” general manager John Mozeliak said.
Pujols said he doesn’t want to negotiate during spring training or the season. The Cardinals say they are open to talks.
”It’s not as if he’s a free agent at this point,” Mozeliak said.
St. Louis said it made an offer at the start of the year and then discussed possible modifications.
The range of such an offer likely was between $19 million and $21 million per season. The exact length of the proposal is not known. But at the high end, it would have translated to eight years, $168 million or nine years, $189 million.
”They were lengthy and in depth,” DeWitt said of the talks.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he believes Pujols is feeling pressure from the union to "set the bar" with this deal, which some expect could exceed Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million, 10-year pact with the New York Yankees.
On Wednesday, La Russa insisted that he’d said too much already.
"It was kind of omitted. I said if I was running the union or part of the union, I’m not sure I’d handle it any different," La Russa said, about two hours before the noon deadline. "I checked with some of our veteran coaches. It strains credibility a little bit to think there hasn’t been any contact or mention. He’s too significant."
Union officials have denied pressuring Pujols or his agent, Danny Lozano. And McClellan said La Russa’s comments did not create an awkward situation for him, even though as the union rep in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, he had to take a decidedly different stance than his manager.
"It doesn’t really have anything to do with me. I just represent the players," McClellan said. "All I can do is get the facts that I know, that the union’s job is to make sure that the players and agents are informed. They’re not going to overstep any boundaries and tell anybody what to do. Everybody’s a grown man. They can make a decision for themselves."
La Russa said often Wednesday morning that his focus is on spring training and the NL Central, not what will or won’t happen with his slugger.
"We don’t want to get our minds cluttered as a team," La Russa said. "There’s enough to do. … The competition in the Central and the National League has got our complete attention. And that’s just what we’re going to think about. You can choose what you think about. That’s what we’re going to think about."
General manager John Mozeliak has said it’s not necessary that a deal be signed by noon Wednesday, but the sides would need to have agreed to terms. Mozeliak was planning to speak about the negotiations Wednesday afternoon, team officials said.
Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs each of his first 10 seasons — all coming with the Cardinals, the franchise he has said in the past he wants to remain with for the rest of his career.
He has a .331 career batting average and averaged 41 homers and 123 RBIs. He’s also won six Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves.
Last year he batted .312 with 42 homers and 118 RBIs and finished second in MVP balloting.
"I don’t think there’s a better guy for us to have on the team," Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker said. "He’s the face of the franchise. You respect both sides of it. You respect what the Cardinals are doing, you respect the management and what Albert’s agent is doing. It’s a tough situation, as everybody knows. He’s an iconic player."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.