- Associated Press - Thursday, December 8, 2011

DALLAS (AP) - Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals after more than a decade for a new baseball life in southern California.

Pujols‘ contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod’s $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

“This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said.

In addition to the Pujols signing, the Angels agreed to a five-year contract with left-hander C.J. Wilson, a deal worth $77.5 million that raised their spending for the day to $331.5 million.

People familiar with the deals told The Associated Press the terms of each contract, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.

Pujols had spent all 11 of his major league seasons with the Cardinals, hitting .338 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs to become a franchise icon second only to Stan Musial. He is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632).

Pujols‘ numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline. He had his poorest season in 2011 and at 31 is likely to spend the majority of his career with the Angels at designated hitter rather than first base.

“We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort,” new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “Albert has spent many years operating at peak, and if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I don’t think we’ve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Some have speculated he is older than his listed age. “Albert Pujols‘ age to me is not a concern,” Dipoto said. “I’m not a scientist. I can’t where he is, but I can tell you he hits like he’s 27.”

St. Louis also offered the slugger a 10-year deal, but he chose to leave the Gateway City for the freeway life.

“We are disappointed,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen.”

The Angels, who finished 10 games behind pennant-winning Texas in the AL West, made the move as the financially troubled Los Angeles Dodgers are in the process of being sold by Frank McCourt in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a deal that could give the region’s NL team a new, wealthy owner. The Dodgers could aggressively bid for talent a year from now, giving them a boost in the regional competition for fans’ attention.

“Winning breeds interest, and we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to get good,” Dipoto said.

Pujols led the Cardinals to a seven-game World Series victory over Wilson’s Rangers, his second title with the team in the last six seasons. He also had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with left-hander Mark Buehrle that raised their free agent-spending to $191 million for three players following deals with closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes. The Angels and Marlins committed $522.5 million to just five free agents.

“I think baseball needs to have a steroid-testing policy for owners,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College.

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