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Marlins offer Pujols 10-year contract

Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals stands in the dugout prior to Game Two of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium. (Oct. 20, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

DALLAS -- The baseball world, gathered here for the winter meetings, waited Tuesday night for Albert Pujols to decide on his employer for 2012 and beyond. A decision was expected very soon as Pujols contemplated a return to the Cardinals or a mammoth, 10-year offer from the Marlins.

The Marlins, who are opening a new ballpark this season and who will introduce Mets fan favorite Jose Reyes Wednesday at a news conference, offered Pujols a package reported to be worth about $220 million. The Cardinals' offer is believed to be less than that in both years and dollars.

According to one person briefed on the negotiations, Pujols planned to make his choice imminently, perhaps as soon as Tuesday night.

The Cardinals, the only team for which Pujols has played, have been increasingly anxious in recent days as it became clear the Marlins were prepared to actually pay Pujols to join them in South Florida.

"The one thing I am confident of is that this organization is committed to winning and doing the right thing, and I know the ownership group is putting their best foot forward and trying to do everything that they can to make this possible," new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday. "But I also know it's a complicated decision on both sides. There's a lot going on, a lot that I'm not even involved in, but I think it's clear to say that the St. Louis Cardinals would love to have Albert, and we'll see how it all plays out."

Miami, having already signed Reyes (for six years and $106 million) and closer Heath Bell (for three years and $27 million), was confident enough in its pursuit of Pujols that team president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest shared his optimism with friends.

Nevertheless, many industry officials remained steadfast that Pujols would remain a Cardinal, preserving his legacy as a one-team player and the reputation he has established in St. Louis with myriad charitable ventures.

Notes & quotes: The Red Sox expect David Ortiz to return to them, and multiple reports indicated that the ultrapopular designated hitter might even accept the club's arbitration offer by Wednesday's midnight deadline. Ortiz, 36, made $12.5 million in 2011, and an arbitration acceptance would give him leverage in trying to procure a multiyear deal, as Boston would likely rather pay Ortiz a reduced salary over two years than give him a pay raise in 2012.

An Ortiz return would restrict Boston's other expenditures this offseason. The other top need is a closer, with free agents such as Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez still on the market.

Prince Fielder has engaged in discussions with the Cubs, and although the Rangers don't seem that enthused about adding the young slugger, a general manager from another team pointed out that some of Texas' core position players -- most notably Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton -- are injury-prone. Fielder has played in at least 157 games each of the past six seasons.


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