Over the weekend, the Marlins met with marquee free agent Albert Pujols, leading him through a tour of the franchise's new ballpark and even offering a preliminary contract to the first baseman. By various reports, the Marlins appear to be quite serious with regards to the free agent slugger. Here is what Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald wrote regarding the team's interest:
Sources say that Loria, in particular, covets Pujols and envisions him at first base when the Marlins open their new stadium on April 4 -- against the World Series champion Cardinals, no less.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with an agent who agreed with the idea that these free agent offers are not just for show and that the Marlins are serious in acquiring Pujols and / or other big names.
The Marlins already made a splash with their new manager, Ozzie Guillen, which lends more validity to the theory that they are launching a new phase in their existence and owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to dole out a few extra millions to make it happen.
"I think it’s genuine, and they have to be taken seriously,’’ said one agent.
So it would seem that the Marlins do really want a big name, and there is indeed no bigger name in the market than Albert Pujols. And with that, Marlins fans have been excited, citing Pujols and others as the players who would make watching those uniforms seam bearable.
But is the fan base likely to see Pujols to take his talents to South Beach? At this point, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com says it's a long shot, and I would have to agree.
The offer to Pujols is reportedly "substantial." But is it enough to sway the Cardinals slugger into leaving St. Louis for South Beach?
At this point, the answer is probably not.
The buzz late Friday night is that the Marlins are more likely to sign Reyes than Pujols. One reason is money. Another is passion to play in Miami.
The Marlins certainly would love to add Pujols, but those connected with the club said the first offer probably isn’t close to being enough to lure in the biggest prize on the free agent market.
Of course, we do not know the kind of offer that was made to Pujols, whereas we have an idea of what the St. Louis Cardinals will offer to their premier player of the last decade. Jon Heyman reported via Twitter that the Cardinals are unlikely to increase (H/T MLB Trade Rumors) their current rumored nine-year, $210 million offer, so the low end of the bar is set there for a contract offer. However, for other interested teams such as the Marlins, you have to figure that Pujols would be interested in pushing past Alex Rodriguez's monster ten-year, $275 million extension signed in 2009.
Even if the figure does not end up reaching Rodriguez levels, the Marlins' payroll would certainly be impinged by taking on such a huge investment for such a long period of time. Unlike Jose Reyes, who may be enticed to take a short-term deal that would allow him to re-enter free agency at a decent age, the 32-year old Pujols would most certainly want to sign this deal as his final contract. The Marlins has not yet moved to the new stadium, and despite the confidence that David Samson has in the team's ability to draw crowds to the new stadium, owner Jeffrey Loria and company do not yet know how revenue streams will be in the next few seasons. Would the team be willing to take a such a $27 million per season dive into the free agent market and lock themselves into a contract for nine or ten seasons for that value before even finding out short-term gains of the stadium?
Speaking of Reyes, Frisaro mentions that he may be more likely to sign.
Reyes is viewed as a strong possibility to become a Marlin. Word around the club is the shortstop loved his visit on Wednesday, and he wants to play in Miami. Reyes is said to be comfortable in the market, he likes many of the players already on the team, and he was impressed by the new ballpark, which promises to be one of the best in the big leagues.
A recent local news report on Reyes's visit to south Florida (posted here on MetsBlog) yielded very positive responses, though Reyes himself confirmed that nothing is concrete just yet. Nevertheless, it seems that Reyes would be happy in Miami and that the Marlins and particularly Hanley Ramirez would be willing to accommodate his arrival. Jon Heyman mentioned on Twitter that one source close to the situation thinks Reyes is the Marlins' primary option, though you can take that with a grain of salt.
Reyes's fit would be better for the Fish in a number of ways. It would allow Ramirez to be moved to an easier defensive position to accommodate his defensive weaknesses at shortstop. It would not further add to the logjam the Marlins have at first base with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez and let the team attempt to trade one of the two for pitching or other needs. It would be a lower-risk option for fewer years and less money, freeing up budget for another signing like Yoenis Cespedes or Mark Buehrle.
Everything about the Reyes potential signing makes decent sense. While the Marlins certainly are serious and would like to acquire Pujols, the amount of investment that would be required to make such a move may ultimately prove too heavy for the team's traditionally risk-averse ways.