MESA, Ariz. -- Can you picture Albert Pujols in a Cubs' uniform? Sure, you can.
No doubt the Cubs can, too, but they're not allowed to talk about players on other teams. Even though Pujols' self-imposed deadline for negotiating a new deal with the St. Louis Cardinals has come and gone, he's still a Cardinal until further notice.
That could change this fall, when Pujols can become a free agent. Until then, the Cubs are thinking of only the here and now.
General manager Jim Hendry could not comment because of baseball's strict tampering rules. The Pujols topic also came up in field manager Mike Quade's daily media briefing Wednesday.
"Isn't Pujols a wine maker?" Quade joked. "That's their (the Cardinals') deal. I'm looking forward to working with our guys on Saturday (when position players report for spring training). You hear, 'Is that going to affect this or that?' They're going to be a good team. He ain't going anywhere, that's for (darn) sure, right now. He's going to be somebody we have to get out and somebody we got to beat, and I don't care what happens contract wise.
"Let's hope we're all here next year, and we can answer the same questions and see what happens. I'm looking forward to seeing Carlos Pena knock the daylights out of the ball. That's all that really matters to me right now."
Pena is the current Cubs first baseman, but like Pujols, his contract will expire this fall.
In other words, get ready for rampant speculation, even though Pujols (now 31 years old) may carry a price tage as high as $300 million for 10 years.
One player who vouched for Pujols, as if he needed it, is pitcher Braden Looper, in Cubs camp as nonroster man. Looper was a teammate of Pujols from 2006-08.
"He's the most consistent player I've ever played with," Looper said.
"Not only consistent, but consistent like ridiculous homers and RBI ridiculous. You can book it. It's nice when you can start the season with a guy you know is going hit 30 and drive in 100. He's probably the best right-handed hitter in the game."
Looper also said Pujols is a good teammate.
"He's a great teammate, especially for being a superstar," he said. "He's got a lot of things you can respect. Just an all-around good guy. He doesn't act like he's the best player in the game."