Clock's ticking: Pujols sets spring training deadline for extension

The St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warmup event is usually a time for the team's fans to gather and share in their excitement and optimism heading into a brand new baseball season, all while raising money for various Cardinals charities.

That money will still be raised without fail, but the excitement and optimism may be replaced by excessive sweating and an uneasy stomach after it was revealed by St. Louis GM John Mozeliak on Saturday that Albert Pujols(notes) and his agent Don Lozano have set a spring-training deadline to negotiate a contract agreement beyond 2011.

From FS Midwest:

“We have been notified that spring training would be the deadline,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told reporters at the club’s annual charity event Saturday. When asked if that meant the start of spring training, Mozeliak nodded.

That gives Mozeliak roughly 34 days to finalize a mega-contract extension or face the very likely possibility of Pujols testing the open market next winter. Not to mention a full season of rumors, questions without answers, and, most importantly, an anxious and queasy fanbase at Busch Stadium.

[Related: Another high-profile contract extension for NFL coach]

ESPN's Buster Olney didn't help Cardinals fans feel any better by speculating that teams like the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants would be among those interested in Pujols. You can bet the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and a handful of others would be looking for creative ways to get involved as well, if only to drive up Albert's price tag.

We knew coming into the weekend that time was running out on the Cardinals to get this deal done with Pujols. Now that we know just how much time that is, the final month of the hot stove season just got a few degrees warmer in St. Louis.

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