DALLAS - Albert Pujols is leaving St. Louis.
The Angels announced Thursday that they have reached a "tentative understanding" with Pujols on a contract, pending a physical, but did not specify terms of the agreement.
According to a report on Yahoo! Sports, Pujols has agreed to a 10-year deal that is expected to pay him between $250-260 million.
The Miami Marlins had been the most aggressive in pursuing the three-time NL MVP this week, but a potential deal began to unravel on Wednesday as the team failed to include a full no-trade clause. Most felt that again opened the door for the Cardinals, but all along it had been mentioned that the Angels were lurking.
Reports also indicate that the Angels have, in fact, included a no-trade through the first five years of the deal.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Thursday that the organization had fully thought through the decision to sign Pujols, but added that negotiations "ramped up" in the last few days during baseball's Winter Meetings.
He said he received a message Thursday morning that Pujols notified the Cardinals of his decision.
The Angels' deal with Pujols is part of an offseason roster overhaul. Dipoto confirmed during a press conference Thursday that the team also signed left- handed starter C.J. Wilson, while the Angels had previously signed reliever LaTroy Hawkins and traded for catcher Chris Iannetta.
Pujols is by far the biggest of those moves, and joins the Angels after spending his entire 11-year career with the Cardinals. He is among the franchise's all-time leaders in numerous categories -- his 445 career homers are just 30 shy of Stan Musial's club record, and he also ranks second to Musial in runs batted in, walks, extra-base hits, doubles, and total bases.
The Angels already have several players capable of playing first base, including Mark Trumbo, last year's rookie standout, and Kendry Morales, who missed last season because of ankle surgery.
Dipoto said Thursday that his team can find opportunities for Trumbo and Morales to play, and that having a player of Pujols' quality overshadows that concern.
"You have the opportunity, from an offensive perspective, to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup," Dipoto said.
Pujols has finished in the top five in MVP voting 10 times, won two Gold Gloves, and was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. He has been selected for nine All-Star games and helped the Cardinals to two World Series titles, including a seven-game defeat of the Texas Rangers this past season.
However, Pujols had a sub-par season by his standards in 2011. He hit under .300 with fewer than 100 RBI for the first time in his career (.299, 99 RBI), while swatting 37 homers.
He also will turn 32 years old in January, and there is the possibility that his production could continue to progressively drop off as he gets deeper into the contract.
Pujols' situation is similar to that of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who signed a 10-year, $275 million deal in December 2007. He was 32 years old, then, was a three-time MVP, and had slugged more than 500 homers.
But since then, Rodriguez has suffered a drop in production. He hasn't played more than 138 games in any of the last four seasons, and appeared in only 99 in 2011 because of injuries.
Rodriguez has averaged 28 homers and 98 RBI per year over that time frame, with a .375 on-base percentage and .521 slugging percentage. From 1996-2007, he averaged 153 games, 43 homers and 124 RBI per year, with a .392 OBP and .585 slugging percentage.
It's not certain Pujols' career will follow the same trajectory, and Dipoto said Thursday he doesn't see the 2011 season as a sign that it will.
"We understand players will go through peaks and valleys of sorts, and Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks," Dipoto said. "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."