ST. LOUIS -- After a holiday break, it appears that talks between the Cardinals and Albert Pujols' agent are on. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that negotiations between the parties "resumed this week" and that the conversations thus far "have taken on a 'positive' tone."
That would be significant progress, considering that earlier conversations between general manager John Mozeliak and agent Dan Lozano were characterized as something short of actual negotiations.
Though some housekeeping remains for the Cards this winter, the club has just about cleared all other major matters off of its docket. The 25-man roster is all but set, with any remaining additions likely coming in the form of Minor League free-agent signings. And reliever Kyle McClellan is St. Louis' only arbitration-eligible player.
As a result, the pressing matter of a new deal for Pujols can take center stage. The three-time National League Most Valuable Player is set to make $16 million in 2011, the final year of a contract that will end up paying him $111 million over eight seasons. Pujols has been in the Cardinals organization for his entire professional career.
General manager John Mozeliak acknowledged during December's Winter Meetings in Florida that club and agent spoke twice, but said that the first conversation was more preliminary, rather than any formal negotiation. The Post-Dispatch report Wednesday indicated that the latest discussions have progressed further than that.
It is exceedingly unlikely that Pujols would be willing to negotiate once Spring Training starts, which would leave the two parties approximately five or six weeks to agree to a deal. Otherwise, the club would likely risk Pujols actually reaching free agency at the end of the 2011 season. Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 13, with infielders and outfielders reporting on Feb. 18.
Mozeliak made it very clear at the Winter Meetings that both the club and the agent had a desire to keep any negotiations as quiet as possible. Neither Mozeliak nor Pujols' representatives could be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.