Albert Pujols, #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals, against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Ga.

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JEREMY HOBSON: It's spring -- OK it's not really spring yet. But it's spring training season for major league baseball teams. The St. Louis Cardinals start tomorrow. And their star slugger Albert Pujols hopes tomorrow is the day he becomes the highest-paid player in baseball. He wants $30 million a year.

As Adam Allington reports from St. Louis Public Radio, some are wondering if that's just too much.


ADAM ALLINGTON: Albert Pujols has one year left with the St. Louis Cardinals. But he's given them the deadline of tomorrow to get a much fatter new contract; otherwise, he's going to be a free agent. Pretty much everyone in baseball thought that the Cardinals and Pujols would come to terms. Now, it looks less and less likely.

From the get-go, the first baseman has said he won't talk about contracts during the regular season.

ALBERT PUJOLS: You know, do you want to bring all of that into the clubhouse all year like you guys have been doing for the last couple years? No. So I think that's more important to me than anything else.

He doesn't want to talk about it, but if Pujols does hit the free agent market in the fall, be prepared for a bidding war to end all wars. Nearly everyone agrees that Pujols deserves the richest contract, which means topping A-Rod's deal for 10 years and $275 million.

MIKE BAUMANN: But, I put an asterisk next to that because it's with the Yankees.

Mike Baumann is a writer for MLB.com.

BAUMANN: The Yankees are basically on a different financial planet than the other 29 franchises and I'm not sure that it's a fair measurement of what anybody is worth.

Word is that Pujols wants to be baseball's first $300-million-man. But Bauman says giving Pujols a New York contract with St. Louis dollars is a huge risk.

BAUMANN: You have less room to maneuver in terms of your other salaries and less ability to amass a lot of talent around this one great player. I mean, those are the harsh realities.

Pujols' logical destination would be a big-money team like the Yankees, but right now they're not in the market for a first baseman. Still, Pujols is going to have a lot suitors.

And over at the St. Louis Sportszone bar, die-hard Cardinals fan Matt Barnhart says he could live without Prince Albert.

MATT BARNHART: Oh, I'll go to the games. Yeah. It's just, they better take that money if they don't go get him and go get two more players to fill that gap. Otherwise, there's going to be a backlash.

Especially if Pujols signs with the Cardinals' arch-rival, the Chicago Cubs. If that happens, Albert Pujols jerseys will be burned.

In St. Louis, I'm Adam Allington for Marketplace.

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