Late rumors cloud Cards' position in Pujols race

Late rumors cloud Cards' position in Pujols race

DALLAS -- The race to sign Albert Pujols may only have one horse still seriously in the running. Or it alternately may be a long way from being decided. As baseball's annual Winter Meetings concluded their third day, little was certain in the pursuit of one of the game's most prolific players.

The Marlins are no longer considered a candidate to sign the slugger, a representative for Pujols' camp said Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Cardinals tendered their first contract offer since February on Tuesday night, and it began to appear that offer had placed them in the lead to sign Pujols. But as the night came to a close, reports indicated that perhaps two additional clubs had joined the chase.

A baseball source confirmed widespread reports that the Angels are heavily involved in negotiations to land Pujols, and USA Today added that the club offered him a 10-year deal worth at least $210 million. Yahoo! Sports reported the presence of a third team in the hunt as well. With Miami agreeing to a four-year, $58 million deal with left-hander Mark Buehrle, pending a physical, the Marlins were not willing to improve their most recent 10-year offer to Pujols.

General manager John Mozeliak on Tuesday declined to provide any specifics on the Cardinals' offer, or to illuminate how or whether it differs from the club's offer last winter to Pujols. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the offer could potentially reach $220 million over 10 years. However, an industry source said that the Cardinals had yet to guarantee 10 years in an offer to the three-time National League Most Valuable Player.

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As the affair appeared to head toward denouement, a Cardinals representative made an intriguing announcement. Shortly before 5 p.m. CT, the club's director of media relations, Brian Bartow, notified reporters that Mozeliak had called off his customary media briefing, which had been slated to take place at 5:30.

At about 9:30 p.m., Bartow told the St. Louis media that Mozeliak would not have any comment at all on Wednesday night, saying Mozeliak "has nothing he can share tonight." It's very rare for the Cardinals not to hold the briefing. One was held on Monday night and again Tuesday, even as the team had business going into the evening.

St. Louis hopes to re-sign its signature player, a man who ranks in the franchise's top five all time in nearly every major offensive category. No deadline has been set by the Cardinals or by agent Dan Lozano, Mozeliak said Tuesday, but it's been clear for a day or so that resolution was on the way sooner than later.

"I suspect [resolution] is going to come quickly," Mozeliak said on Tuesday. "But we'll see. I can't say that with any confidence. That would have to come from that camp, their camp."

Neither the Cardinals nor Lozano have publicly stated the terms being offered or asked. St. Louis offered a nine-year deal in February, worth in the neighborhood of $200 million, before talks broke off for the regular season.

The Cardinals would of course love to have the matter settled in their favor. But one way or another, the club is eager for a conclusion, in order to pursue other matters. St. Louis still would like to upgrade its bullpen and middle infield, as well as potentially adding some bench depth.

"We've definitely put all of our eggs into this basket as far as trying to address it," Mozeliak said. "So for the resources upstairs here [in the team's suite], meaning all the people working, it would be helpful to start looking at other options if necessary."

One option that is off the table is right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel, who played a key role in the Cards' push to a World Series title. The Tigers appear to be close to signing Dotel. Shortstop Rafael Furcal likely is still in play, but is drawing interest from multiple clubs.

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.