Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols' contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.
"This is a monumental day for Angel fans and I could not be more excited," Angels owner Arte Moreno said.
In addition to the Pujols signing, by far the biggest of the offseason, the Angels agreed to a five-year contract with left-hander C.J. Wilson, a deal worth $77.5 million.
Pujols has spent all 11 of his major league seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming a franchise icon second only to Stan Musial. He is fourth in career slugging percentage at .617, trailing only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (.690), Ted Williams (.634) and Lou Gehrig (.632). But he had his poorest season in 2011 and at 31 is likely to spend the majority of his career with the Angels at designated hitter rather than first base.
"Albert's career performance clearly speaks for itself," new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. "He has proven to be the best player of his generation."
St. Louis also offered him a 10-year deal, but he chose to leave the Gateway City for sunny California.
"He left a pretty good impact over there, I don't think fans will soon forget what his contributions were," said former Cardinals manager and star Joe Torre, now an executive with Major League Baseball. "I still think the St. Louis fans are going to be more appreciative than angry."
The Angels made the move as the financially troubled Los Angeles Dodgers are in the process of being sold by Frank McCourt in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a move that could give the region's NL team a new, wealthy owner. The Dodgers could aggressively bid for talent a year from now, giving them a boost in the regional competition for fans' attention.
"I'm a little surprised, I guess. I really thought he'd go back to St. Louis," said Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty, an NL Central rival of the Cardinals. "It's certainly good for our division."
Pujols led the Cardinals to a World Series title this fall — his second with the team in the last six seasons. He also had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with left-hander Mark Buehrle that raised their free agent-spending to $191 million for three players following deals with closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes.
"I think baseball needs to have a steroid-testing policy for owners," said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College.
Pujols agreed in 2004 to a $100 million, seven-year contract, a deal that — with a 2011 option and bonuses — wound up paying him $112.55 million over eight years.
His agent, Dan Lozano, split off last year from the Beverly Hills Sports Council to form his own agency, and Pujols' deal seemed like an attempt to surpass A-Rod's landmark $252 million contract, agreed to at the same hotel 11 years earlier.
Pujols rejected a multiyear extension last offseason that was said to include a small percentage of the franchise. He cut off negotiations on the first day of spring training.
"This is a footprint contract, because it follows the footprint laid by other great players," said agent Scott Boras, who negotiated Rodriguez's deals. "Putting a hitter like Albert Pujols in a big market, where he can be a DH, I think it's a win-win for everybody."
Pujols' numbers in nearly every major offensive category are on a three-year decline, but he remains among the game's elite. He hit 37 home runs last season, running his 30-homer streak to 11 years, and batted .299 with 99 RBIs. He led the Cardinals' improbable late-season surge and became only the third player to hit three home runs in a World Series game following Ruth and Reggie Jackson.
Yahoo Sports first reported the Pujols agreement.
Reaction around the major leagues was swift.
"For 2012, two wilds cards and no Albert Pujols. I'm happy," said Sandy Alderson, general manager of the Cardinals' NL rival New York Mets.