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11/17/10 6:28 PM EST

DeWitt cautiously optimistic Pujols will re-sign

Cards chairman acknowledges difficulty of constructing deal

ORLANDO -- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. expressed cautious optimism Wednesday regarding the possibility of the club re-signing superstar Albert Pujols, but acknowledged the obvious as well: that getting a deal done won't be easy.

DeWitt addressed the matter shortly after a meeting of Major League Baseball's Executive Council, of which he is a member. DeWitt is in Orlando for baseball's Owners Meetings.

"It's hard to say," DeWitt said when asked about his confidence level for re-signing the three-time MVP. "He's said he wants to come back and we've said we want him. But trying to put that into a contract is not easy when you're talking a player of this caliber. He's been pretty consistent that he likes St. Louis and would like to stay. Hopefully that will be the case. We'll see."

Pujols is signed through 2011, but would become a free agent if he does not have a deal before next fall. He declined to negotiate after the start of Spring Training in 2010, and such a restriction would seem to be in place again for '11. General manager John Mozeliak said recently that the club hopes to begin talks with Pujols' agent "in the near future," but DeWitt left the timing somewhat more open-ended on Wednesday.

"Spring Training has a defined starting point," DeWitt said. "We'll engage before that. When exactly depends on their schedule and attitude from a standpoint of when they're available."

DeWitt also reiterated a point Mozeliak has made more than once: that the Cardinals can continue building their 2011 club without waiting on a Pujols deal.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.