Albert Pujols has told the St. Louis Cardinals he wants a new contract by the beginning of spring training, or he will sever negotiations and become a free agent in the fall, sources told ESPN the Magazine’s Buster Olney.

The Cardinals exercised Pujols’ option for next season in October, which will pay him $16 million. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak refused to comment on the state of the negotiations Saturday.

Pujols had another spectacular season in 2010, hitting 42 home runs, driving in 118 runs and batting .312.

Pujols has established himself as one of the greatest players ever to major league baseball and many consider he could be the greatest player ever when he retires.

After seeing players of lesser talent get major contracts, such as Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and new Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, Pujols must be curious of the dollars he could earn on the free agent market.

Howard’s five-year contract at $25 million per season is outrageous, but what would Pujols earn per season, especially when he’s better than Howard?

Would anyone pay $30 million or more for one player, even if that player is Albert Pujols? 

Well, you have to look at the big spending teams. The New York Yankees already have committed eight years and millions of dollars to first baseman Mark Teixeira, and Pujols would not agree to be a DH only, because he is a very good fielder.

The Red Sox don’t need a first baseman, and the Phillies have Howard. While Pujols could easily get $30 million per season in a new deal, there are very few teams if any that could afford that figure.

Pujols is a once-in-a-generation talent and has shown no signs of slowing down. He loves St. Louis, and the team, and it would be a big surprise if he leaves the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have shown a commitment to winning every season Albert Pujols has been in St. Louis, and re-signing him will ensure their commitment to the 2012 season and beyond.

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