DALLAS -- For four days, the parade of bidders has traipsed through the winter meetings hotel suite of Albert Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano. But when the meetings end Thursday, it's now clear that Pujols' negotiations will be far from over, sources told ESPN.com.
The Los Angeles Angels entered the Pujols talks on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the Angels' strategy. Meanwhile, Pujols' camp remains locked in ongoing negotiations with his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals. And people within the sport were becoming less skeptical about reports that a third unidentified team was also in on the Pujols bidding.
The other team that had been aggressively chasing Pujols, the Miami Marlins, moved on to pursue free agent pitchers Mark Buehrle (who agreed to terms Wednesday, pending a physical) and C.J. Wilson. But despite the Marlins' exit from the bidding, sources said negotiations with the Cardinals hadn't progressed to the point where Pujols was close to agreeing to a deal to return to the only team he has ever played for.
The Cardinals planned to talk with Pujols' agent one more time Thursday before heading home. But ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported that the Cardinals' latest offer was for nine years -- not the 10-year, $220 million bid that was reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch at one point Wednesday morning.
And one source who spoke with Pujols' camp came away with the impression the two sides were farther apart than had been widely portrayed earlier in the day.
USA Today reported that the Angels, who didn't meet with Lozano until Wednesday, made a 10-year offer worth at least $210 million. But the Angels also were engaged in heavy negotiations with Wilson on Wednesday. It was unclear whether the club could afford to sign both a high-priced free agent starter and a player such as Pujols, who will command a nine-figure contract.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters that the Angels had cast a "wide net" in their pursuit of ways to upgrade their team, but wouldn't specifically deny reports that the club had made an offer to Pujols.
The identity of the reported third team remained unknown. But people within the sport suggested it was likely to be a club that has an established, big-name first baseman it would need to trade before it could complete a deal with Pujols.
Just a few days ago, it appeared that Pujols was likely to sign with either the Cardinals or Marlins this week. Now, said one source who had spoken with Pujols' camp, there is "no shot" that Pujols will make a decision before the meetings end -- and, possibly, any time soon.
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com.