Is Albert Pujols being pursued by the Angels?

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Word began to circulate through the winter meetings hotel Tuesday evening that a “mystery” team had joined the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins in pursuit of slugger Albert Pujols.

Could that team be the Angels? reported late Tuesday night that the Angels are pursuing Pujols, a 31-year-old free-agent first baseman who has been one of baseball’s premier sluggers for 11 seasons and has reportedly received two 10-year offers of more than $200 million.

But one person with direct knowledge of negotiations said the Angels are not the mystery team, and another person in the organization who is familiar with the team’s decision-making process said Pujols’ name “has not come up.”


Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto was scheduled to meet reporters for his daily winter meetings news briefing at 2:30 p.m. PST.

But seven hours later, at 9:30 p.m. PST, a team spokesman said the Angels would have “nothing to report” and that Dipoto would not be available for comment until Wednesday afternoon.

Calls and text messages to team President John Carpino, who is at the meetings, and several other front-office executives were not returned.

Rumors of the Angels’ interest in Pujols were met with skepticism in the hotel lobby, where one prominent American League general manager, when told of the report, said, “No way.”

Pujols has played his entire career in St. Louis, putting together a Hall of Fame resume that includes a .328 average, .420 on-base percentage, 445 home runs and 1,329 runs batted in, and his bat would provide a significant boost to any lineup in baseball.

But a pursuit of Pujols, who has led the Cardinals to World Series victories in 2006 and 2011, would be in direct conflict with a comment Angels Manager Mike Scioscia made earlier Tuesday.


Asked if he had to pick between adding a starting pitcher such as C.J. Wilson, whom the Angels are pursuing aggressively, and a potent hitter such as third baseman Aramis Ramirez, whom the Angels have also pursued, Scioscia, who already has three top-flight starters in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, chose the pitcher.

“I know you look at Weav, Haren and Santana and it sounds like you’re getting greedy, but you need five guys going out there during the season to give you a chance to win,” Scioscia said. “Right now, we might have an incredible playoff rotation, but you need a full rotation to give yourself that opportunity to get into the playoffs.”

The Angels also appear set at first base with 25-year-old Mark Trumbo, who hit .254 with 29 homers and 87 RBIs and finished second in AL rookie-of-the-year voting.

And they will have even more depth at the position and power in the lineup if Kendrys Morales, who hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 2009 but has sat out the last 11/2 seasons because of a broken left ankle, returns in 2012.

Both the Cardinals and the Marlins, who have agreed with shortstop Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106-million deal and signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27-million pact, have been pushing hard to sign Pujols.

Angels owner Arte Moreno is no stranger to high-stakes negotiations — the team offered huge deals to free agents Mark Teixeira after 2009 and Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre after 2010, all of whom signed elsewhere.


But some believe Moreno, despite carrying a payroll of $142 million in 2011, has become more of an anti-big-spending hawk after serving on the owners’ committee in talks for baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement over the last year.

Moreno said he would like to cap the 2012 payroll at about $140 million, leaving Dipoto with $15 million to $20 million to spend this winter.

If the Angels were to sign Pujols, they would have to shed considerable payroll elsewhere to bolster their rotation and bullpen, both areas of need.