With the St. Louis Cardinals for the first 11 years of his record-breaking career, Pujols became a free agent for the first time. This spring, he had turned down an offer from the club that was reportedly worth $198 million over nine years, instead preferring to test the open market this fall.
During this week's Winter Meetings, the Florida Marlins made a serious run at securing Pujols' services, offering a 10-year proposal reportedly in the $210 million range before bowing out on Wednesday.
The Cardinals reportedly increased their offer to 10 years for perhaps as much as $220 million on Wednesday, likely in response to the Marlins' thrust. It is not clear how the components of their total offer to the 31-year-old compared to the apparent winning bid from the Angels, however.
Moving forward, the Cardinals will most likely move experienced first baseman Lance Berkman to replace Pujols in the field at first base. They may also acquire veteran outfield depth to backfill Berkman and because of the injury to Allen Craig that will sideline him for the early part of the 2012 seasoon.
As compensation for the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals will receive a draft pick from the Angels, their frst-rounder, 19th overall, as well as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Update: Mid-day Thursday, the Cardinals issued the following statements.
From Cardinals Chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr.
"We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis. Albert is a great champion and we will always be thankful for his many achievements in a Cardinals uniform, as well as his contributions to the St. Louis community. I have the highest regard for Albert both personally and professionally, and appreciate his direct involvement in this process. I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen."
From Cardinals Sr. Vice President & General Manager John Mozeliak
"Albert has been a special player in this organization since the moment he was drafted over 12 years ago. His accomplishments on and off the field have been spectacular. I wish him well in the next phase of his career."
Mozeliak met with the press upon his return to St. Louis on Thursday afternoon. Video from FOX Sports Midwest.
Related opinion piece at The Cardinal Nation Blog:
"It's ok. Just don't insult us, Albert. It's about the money."
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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