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Pujols‘ contract, which like Wilson’s is subject to a physical, is 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 agreement with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

“This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited,” said owner Arte Moreno, who bought the team for $184 million from The Walt Disney Co. in 2003, a year after its only title.

Despite a top-four payroll this year, the Angels languished to a second-place finish behind Texas in the AL West. They spent $331.5 million on just two players, capping an unusual winter meetings in which the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox watched while the Angels and Miami Marlins spent as if they were the sport’s financial elite.

Moving into a new ballpark next season, the Marlins failed to reel in Pujols but acquired All-Star closer Heath Bell, All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and left-hander Mark Buehrle for $191 million, meaning the two clubs 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.

At the very same hotel 11 years earlier, teams spent $738.95 million on 24 free agents and none of the three big deals worked out as planned. Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez ($160 million over eight years with Boston) and Mike Hampton ($121 million over eight years with Colorado) all were traded during their contracts.

Pujols became the first player to hit 30 home runs in his first 11 seasons and the second after Al Simmons (1924-34) to reach 100 RBIs in his first 10. He has a .338 average with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs to become a franchise icon second only to Musial, and is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632).

But Pujols‘ numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline. He had his poorest season in 2011 with a .299 average, 37 homers and 99 RBIs. He batted just .240 in the Series but had a night for the ages in Game 3, joining Ruth and Reggie Jackson as only the third player to hit three home runs in a Series game.

“We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort,” 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 the listed 31 and he could be a full-time designated hitter within a few years. “Albert Pujols‘ age to me is not a concern,” Dipoto said. “I’m not a scientist. I can’t tell you where he is, but I can tell you he hits like he’s 27.”

The Angels 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 agreed in 2004 to a $100 million, seven-year contract, a deal that _ with a 2011 option and bonuses _ wound up paying him $112.55 million over eight years.

Cardinals fans already lamenting the retirement of manager Tony La Russa won’t get to see Pujols up close for a while _ his old and new teams don’t meet in interleague play next season.

“He left a pretty good impact over there. I don’t think fans will soon forget what his contributions were,” said former Cardinals manager and star Joe Torre, now an executive with Major League Baseball. “I still think the St. Louis fans are going to be more appreciative than angry.”

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