St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols's self-imposed deadline to agree to a contract extension with the club has passed, potentially leaving the Cardinals in the franchise's biggest bind in years.
The deadline was set for Wednesday at 12 PM EST, a day before Pujols is set to report to spring training, but with it going by, Pujols appears set to hit the free agent market after the upcoming season.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed in a statement released by the club that Pujols had been offered a substantial, long-term deal which he rejected.
Fox Sports's Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cardinals's offer to Pujols was most-likely in the $19-21 million range, which would have made Pujols about the 10th-highest salaried player in baseball.
Mozeliak clarified that the club made several attempts to reach an agreement with Pujols and had no intention of trading him though they now run the risk of losing him for nothing should he leave the team as a free agent.
In a statement released to USA Today, Pujols's agent Dan Lozano said that the Cardinals's proposals for an extension were far too low given Pujols's historic production during his career (and if Rosenthal's report is accurate, Lozano has a reasonable case). He reiterated that the possibility existed for Pujols to remain with the club, but negotiations would be halted during the season.
Both sides seem to have agreed to not make any further statements regarding the issue to the media—to avoid a similar situation the New York Yankees recently ran during negotiations with Derek Jeter—so this could very well be the last official word on the matter until next fall. No matter, let the speculation begin.