Cards say no hurry for Pujols extension

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- This time next year, the St. Louis Cardinals might be interested in opening talks on another longterm contract with Albert Pujols.

After Pujols won his second NL MVP award Monday, general manager John Mozeliak said there was no particular hurry. The 28-year-old Pujols has two years remaining on a seven-year, $100 million deal he signed in 2004, and the Cardinals have an $11 million option for an eighth year through 2011.

"I think at some point, that discussion will happen," Mozeliak said. "Right now we don't feel that just because of the events of today [it] needs to happen.

"You look at what he's meant to this organization, and it only would make sense at some point."

Mozeliak said he thought talks could "wait another year," but added that things could be accelerated if necessary.

"What he brings to this organization is so special," Mozeliak said. "He's the whole package."

Pujols said his second NL MVP award was also his second favorite award this season. He's more proud of winning the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the major league player who combines community service with excellence on the field.

"I think it's my responsibility, the legacy he left behind, for me to take," Pujols said. "That would rank first, and then the MVP."

Pujols expects to be cleared next week for full duty from elbow surgery to relieve nerve irritation. The Cardinals have forecast he'll be 100 percent before spring training, and Pujols plans on representing the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

"I've still got three months," Pujols said. "I would say yes right now. I feel really good about my elbow and everything."

The Cardinals' most pressing offseason needs are left-handed relief and more pop from the middle infield. One lefty is gone after Jeremy Affeldt got a two-year, $8 million contract with the Giants.

"I suspect that would be a market that would move quick, kind of like the draft when catchers go fast," Mozeliak said. "It's a limited supply and that typically isn't around in January."

Mozeliak said the Cardinals were not close on any free agents, including one who played for St. Louis last season. There have been talks with the agent for right-hander Russ Springer.

"Right now we have some depth at right-handed relief, and there's some other places we have more glaring needs," Mozeliak said.

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