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ESPN: Pujols expected to stay put

We in St. Louis may be fretting about the Albert Pujols situation. But, according to an ESPN report, major league executives in other cities think it is a stone cold lock that the Cardinals will re-sign baseball's best player.

Jayson Stark said he couldn't find a single person of authority in the major leagues who think Pujols won't play first base for the Redbirds in 2012 and beyond.

Stark writes:

If there's somebody in baseball who thinks the Cardinals are going to let Pujols walk, we can't find that somebody. We've asked owners. We've asked executives. We've asked agents. They all see Pujols for exactly what he is:

"Albert is the brand of the Cardinals," said one agent. "Period. [Bill] DeWitt should have sold the team if he didn't think they could sign Albert Pujols."

Obviously, DeWitt, the Cardinals' general partner and chairman of the board, didn't sell the team. Didn't even think about selling the team. So he's known for years what he was getting into as Pujols' free agency approached. And now it's time to do what he and his proud franchise have to do.

I certainly hope that Stark is right. But he does allow that, while keeping Pujols is the sensible thing to do, it's not an easy thing to do.

He reinforces what Cardinals fans already know: Pujols has been a huge bargain for the Cardinals for the last several years. And while the team would like him to give it a break when it comes to his next contract, Pujols certainly feels like he has already made a tremendous sacrifice to the club.

And before we all go do cartwheels in the street, Stark also throws some light on the fact that the Cubs could make the Cardinals miserable for the next decade or so by throwing a ton of cash at Pujols should he reach the open market.

In short, Stark and his sources think the Cardinals are too smart to let Pujols hit the free agent market. And all we can do is hope that he's right.

Click here to read the Stark story.