The deadline for Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals to reach a new contract agreement passed Wednesday with no new deal, making it likely the three-time MVP will test the free-agent market after the season.
"We are greatly disappointed at this outcome," Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr. said at a news conference. "We will revisit it again following the 2011 season, at which time we will again make every effort to keep him as a Cardinal."
Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs each of his first 10 seasons -- all with the Cardinals, the franchise he has said in the past he wants to remain with for the rest of his career.
But the sides failed in recent months to reach common ground, raising the possibility the three-time NL MVP may be on the cusp of his final season in St. Louis.
"We felt very good about the offer we made," general manager John Mozeliak said.
Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract's final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest.
Pujols said he doesn't want to negotiate during spring training or the season. The Cardinals say they are open to talks.
"It's not as if he's a free agent at this point," Mozeliak said.
St. Louis said it made an offer at the start of the year and then discussed possible modifications.
"They were lengthy and in depth," DeWitt said of the talks.
The closest Pujols came to an appearance at camp Wednesday morning was a sighting of his black pickup with Mand tell anybody what to do. Everybody's a grown man. They can make a decision for themselves."
La Russa said often Wednesday morning that his focus is on spring training and the NL Central, not what will or won't happen with his slugger.
"We don't want to get our minds cluttered as a team," La Russa said. "There's enough to do. ... The competition in the Central and the National League has got our complete attention. And that's just what we're going to think about. You can choose what you think about.
That's what we're going to think about."
General manager John Mozeliak has said it was not necessary that a deal be signed by noon Wednesday, but the sides would need to have agreed to terms.
Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs each of his first 10 seasons -- all coming with the Cardinals, the franchise he has said in the past he wants to remain with for the rest of his career.
He has a .331 career batting average and averaged 41 homers and 123 RBIs. He's also won six Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves.
Last year he batted .312 with 42 homers and 118 RBIs and finished second in MVP balloting.
"I don't think there's a better guy for us to have on the team," Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker said. "He's the face of the franchise. You respect both sides of it. You respect what the Cardinals are doing, you respect the management and what Albert's agent is doing. It's a tough situation, as everybody knows. He's an iconic player."