St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. says Albert Pujols is untouchable, even though the club and its slugging first baseman have yet to agree on a contract extension.
During a lengthy Q&A with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, DeWitt was asked if the slow-moving talks, as well as Pujols’ acquiring veto rights after the season, would prompt the club to explore a trade before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline.
"That’s one of the easiest decisions we’ve ever had to make. Would we ever contemplate trading Albert: absolutely not," DeWitt told the Post’s Joe Strauss. "It’s not even a consideration. The consideration is that he’s got one more year left on his contract beyond the current season (the Cardinals hold a $16 million club option for 2011). There were some brief conversations (about a contract) during spring training, and it was eventually agreed upon that it wasn’t appropriate to carry talks into this season."
DeWitt sees the next few months as a prime time for resuming talks.
"I think the word that applies to the upcoming offseason is ‘optimal.’ That’s the best time for us to negotiate something to keep Albert in town for a long time," DeWitt said. "Those negotiations aren’t easy for a player of Albert’s stature. It remains to be seen what we can do. But we’ll make every effort to see where it goes. I don’t have a crystal ball to say if it can get done in 24 hours or if we would go the entire winter without getting something done. It’s tough. The market can change in either direction."
Pujols was at the center of a well-traveled trade rumor last March. Reports surfaced that the Phillies talked internally about exploring a swap of first baseman Ryan Howard for Pujols. That was about a month before Howard agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract extension. Pujols’ representative, Dan Lozano, indicated after Howard’s signing that the contract would not be used as a baseline for future talks about Pujols.