- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

JUPITER, Fla. | The deadline for Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals to reach a new contract agreement passed Wednesday with no new deal, making it likely the three-time MVP will test the free-agent market after the season.

“We are greatly disappointed at this outcome,” Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr. said at a news conference. “We will revisit it again following the 2011 season, at which time we will again make every effort to keep him as a Cardinal.”

Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, is the only player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs each of his first 10 seasons — all with the Cardinals, the franchise he has said in the past he wants to remain with for the rest of his career.

But the sides failed in recent months to reach common ground, raising the possibility the three-time NL MVP may be on the cusp of his final season in St. Louis.

“We felt very good about the offer we made,” general manager John Mozeliak said.

Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract’s final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest.

Pujols said he doesn’t want to negotiate during spring training or the season. The Cardinals say they are open to talks.

“It’s not as if he’s a free agent at this point,” Mozeliak said.

St. Louis said it made an offer at the start of the year and then discussed possible modifications.

“They were lengthy and in depth,” DeWitt said of the talks.

Pujols said through his agent, Dan Lozano, that he does not want to discuss his contract status publicly when he arrives at camp or during the season.

“He is not only the best player in baseball, and on his way to having a Hall of Fame career, but an iconic figure in sports,” Lozano said in a statement . “The expiration of today’s deadline does not eliminate the possibility of Albert returning to the Cardinals in 2012, but simply delays negotiations until the conclusion of the Cardinals‘ season.”

The closest Pujols came to an appearance at camp Wednesday morning was a sighting of his black pickup with Missouri license plates in the parking lot of the team’s spring training complex.

Pujols was not with the vehicle. The team expects him to arrive Thursday, and teammates say they can’t wait to see him.

“It really doesn’t matter to us,” said Cardinals pitcher and union rep Kyle McClellan, when asked about the ongoing Pujols contract watch. “It’s none of our business. It’s none of anybody’s business. … The truth is, I’ve never been on the mound and thinking of Albert Pujols‘ contract.”

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