Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals stands in the...

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals stands in the dugout prior to Game Two of the World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium. (Oct. 20, 2011) Credit: Getty/Ezra Shaw

DALLAS -- A typically busy winter meetings wrapped up Thursday with a thunderous announcement from Southern California: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim want back into October.

Albert Pujols, arguably the game's best player of the last decade, agreed in principle with the Angels Thursday on a 10-year, $254-million contract, the second-largest deal in history (after the Yankees' 10-year, $275-million commitment to Alex Rodriguez). Pujols left the Cardinals, the only team for which he has played.

And C.J. Wilson, the best starting pitcher on this offseason's free-agent market, departed the Rangers for the rival Angels, agreeing in principle to a five-year, $77.5-million deal.

"It's a very exciting day for the Angels community, for Southern California as a whole," Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto said in a news conference at the Hilton Anatole. "And we're very excited about what this can do to our future and what it means to this organization today."

DiPoto replaced Tony Reagins as the Angels' GM in October after two straight seasons in which the club failed to make the playoffs.

Pujols, who will turn 32 in January, has hit 445 home runs, has won three National League Most Valuable Player awards and won his second World Series ring with the 2011 Cardinals. Most industry people couldn't envision him leaving St. Louis, a tremendous baseball town in which Pujols established several charitable endeavors.

The Cardinals offered Pujols a nine-year deal for about $220 million; Pujols opted for the extra year and dollars. By receiving a guaranteed $254 million, he exceeded the $25 million annual average value in Ryan Howard's five-year, $125-million extension with the Phillies that begins next year, thereby establishing a new threshold for first basemen. The deal also surpassed, barely, the 10-year, $252-million contract that Texas gave A-Rod after the 2000 season (also at this hotel).

"Wow," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, smiling. "Obviously, [Pujols] is one of the greatest hitters who have ever played. He's a special player."

Wilson, 31, switched from Texas' bullpen to the rotation for the 2010 season and excelled the past two years. In 2011, the lefthander was 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA in 2231/3 innings.

"It's been a great time playing in Texas as an organization for the last 11 years with my teammates, but at the end of the day, my family was a big player in this, and my friends and stuff back home," the Newport Beach, Calif., native told "Going back to where you're from is a difficult thing to turn down when you have an opportunity, and it works out really in any way.''

The Angels went 86-76 last season and missed the wild-card spot by five games. Although they are dramatically improved, Cashman said he won't alter his winter game plan for the Yankees.

"I remember back in the day [after the 1991 season], we wound up with Danny Tartabull because the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla," Cashman said. "It didn't really work out all that well for us. So I don't want to do reactionary stuff.

"You should do what you're willing to do, regardless of outside stimuli. Just because somebody else did something doesn't all of a sudden change your focus."

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