DALLAS -- With the agent for Albert Pujols in town and expected to meet with both the Cardinals and Marlins today, St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt says he remains "hopeful" of re-signing Pujols and expects the situation will become far more clear by the time these meetings end Thursday.
"We're making every effort," to sign the slugger, DeWitt said Monday morning. "Obviously, we're having continuing discussions. We have a good dialog going.
DeWitt said the Cardinals have not set a deadline and indicated that they wouldn't. However, he also acknowledged the need to build their 2012 roster and move forward without waiting so long it hampers them.
"Obviously, the sooner the better for us," DeWitt said. "We're not putting a timetable on it."
With both Lance Berkman and Allen Craig returning, the Cardinals at least have some options if Pujols leaves. And multiple sources reiterated Monday that the Marlins will continue their full-court press this winter in Pujols' direction. Having already signed closer Heath Bell (that announcement is scheduled for 3:30 EDT today) and agreed to terms with Bell, the Marlins will remain aggressive
But while Berkman could shift to first base and Craig could take his outfield spot, that remains St. Louis' Plan B.
"You don't replace an Albert Pujols," DeWitt said. "Sure we have depth. But we're a far better club with Albert than without him."
The Cardinals owner would not get into specifics about what the club has offered Pujols, or even if an offer is on the table. Sources with knowledge of the talks say St. Louis has not presented an offer since the one that was on the table just before spring training that Pujols rejected.
DeWitt also would not get into specifics regarding whether the offer Pujols rejected last spring was still in play, or whether that is off the table with a new one to be presented.
"We wish we'd signed him two years ago," DeWitt said. "Or last year. But we understand the process on a player of his caliber once he reaches free agency."
The Cardinals indicated last spring that they were happy to allow Pujols delve into free agency this winter and allow the market to develop. With just the Marlins as competitors now, and with the Cubs on the periphery, they're still on that high wire.
The longer this drags out, however, there also is growing speculation regarding not only how seriously the Cardinals want him back, but how badly he wants to come back.
"I think Albert wants to be a Cardinal," DeWitt said. "I'm sure he loves the experiences he's had there. These things aren't easy when you're talking about a player of this magnitude, to reach an agreement."