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Virtually no chance for deal between Cards, Pujols by deadline

Superstar Albert Pujols and the Cardinals are so far apart in negotiations that people familiar with the talks say there is virtually no chance for a deal before the three-time NL MVP reports to spring camp Feb. 16.

Pujols, who will be a free-agent at season's end, has set his reporting date as the deadline for a contract to be done with the Cardinals, but sources indicate that the sides are far apart across the board, meaning on term as well as dollars. Pujols has made it clear talks will cease when he reports, only to be resumed after the season.

As the established best player in the game, Pujols is said to have been seeking a contract at least comparable to Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million deal, and very likely more than that. People familiar with the talks told SI.com last month that the Cardinals were said to believe a deal for six years, or perhaps seven at the outset, was more reasonable for Pujols, who's 31 years old.

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt told SI.com in November that he thought the Yankees must regret A-Rod's deal, indicating it wasn't something he wanted to use as a comp for Pujols.

While Pujols' market might possibly be impacted somewhat by the Yankees and Red Sox already possessing star first baseman in Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, there should be no shortage of suitors for a player who has begun his career similarly to the way Joe DiMaggio began his, only with more power.

One competing executive said he wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs, the Cardinals' chief rival, made a big play for Pujols. The Cubs have Carlos Peña on a one-year deal and would have a spot for Pujols next offseason.

The Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Nationals and Orioles are among other possibilities should Pujols become a free agent. The Yankees and Red Sox can never be ruled out, but their positional need isn't there for those two teams, assuming Boston keeps Gonzalez long term, as expected.

Pujols is in the final year of a deal that paid him $116 million over eight years in St. Louis.

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