While much of the joy surrounding the Marlins signing Jose Reyes is understandable, some of what the team is doing today is fairly inexplicable. It was confirmed by many sources (example: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, H/T MLB Daily Dish) that the Marlins and free agent first baseman Albert Pujols and his agent met for 30 minutes today prior to the official announcement of the Heath Bell signing. Pujols was one of the Marlins' premium targets this offseason, and indeed the Marlins have been pursuing him, if not as aggressively as they did Reyes.
In a completely separate happenstance, Larry Beinfest apparently confirmed that the Marlins will be in fact tendering a contract to Juan Carlos Oviedo, previously known as Leo Nunez, this offseason (H/T MLB Daily Dish). This comes even as the Fish announced that "the closer formerly known as" Leo Nunez had done a good job closing for the team during the Bell press conference.
This news is funny to me in that both ideas are ludicrous. One of them is ludicrous in a sort of "I can't believe the team is going this far" sense; the other is ludicrous in a sort of "I can't believe the team is being this stupid sense." I also think both, in the end, will amount to nothing.The Pujols Offer
The Marlins are unlikely to get Pujols. He would require a major investment, and even if the team is willing to up the ante for him, I doubt the club can make up the difference in Pujols's heart between Miami and his beloved St. Louis. The Cardinals are probably still the favorites until one team blows him out of the water with a deal.
If that team happens to be the Marlins, you can all but forget retaining any player other than Mike Stanton for longer than the 2017 season and beyond, because the Fish will be locked into so much long-term money between Pujols and Reyes that they will need the remaining dollars to retain Stanton as the third piece of a major, older-than-necessary core. The team would also be banking on the aging capabilities of Pujols and Reyes to carry much of the franchise into the foreseeable future, and while that might not sound awful, we've already seen that Reyes may be in for a sharper-than-expected decline.
Having said that, any signing of Pujols would also make the seasons leading up to 2014 very exciting, as much of the Marlins' current core remains under contract through that year. If a Pujols signing does happen, it would ensure that the Marlins would require a Gaby Sanchez trade, but such a move would be more than doable and would be embraced for the following three years as the Marlins then boasted one of the premier lineups in all of baseball. For Fish fans uninterested in the long-term implications, it would be a dream come true.
The Oviedo Offer
Now this idea is just ridiculous. From a player evaluation standpoint, there is no excuse for the Marlins to pay Oviedo, an average at best reliever at this stage, $6 million for his 2012 contributions. Last season, the club tinkered with Ovidedo's approach, encouraging him to pick up his slider after he all but abandoned it his successful 2010. While this may not have been the only difference between those seasons, it did seem to have an effect, as it lessened the use of what was easily Oviedo's best pitch. Perhaps partly as a result, Oviedo regressed in a major way, began allowing fly balls to a significantly higher number of hitters, and returned to being closer to the 2009 version than the 2010 version.
Having said that, there is a chance Oviedo remains effective in 2012. Unfortunately, there is little chance he is effective enough to be worth $6 million, and the Marlins should not want to pay to find out. If he re-signs, he would return as a setup man for Bell, but that role is already adequately performed by a myriad of solid relievers who will cost less in 2012. Jose Ceda, Steve Cishek, and Edward Mujica can each at least duplicate Oviedo's performances over the last three seasons, and they will do it for less money combined than Oviedo will make in 2012. There is simply no reason to deny one of them the opportunity for a more important pen role because Oviedo happened to be the guy who picked up saves the last three years.
I have heard the argument that this is Jeff Loria's money and not my own, and that the Oviedo deal would be a one-year move that would not affect the team long-term. This is completely correct, but what disappoints me most is what it means for the level of player evaluation the front office is at. To pay a mediocre reliever $6 million with the only reasoning being "because we can" speaks to how backwards the organization may very well be. It is one thing to sign a legitimate reliever like Bell to a mutli-year contract and argue that sabermetric analysis has yet to nail down the value of the closer (I have my doubts on the matter), but it is another to go with a setup man whose best trait was the meaningless "save" stat and whose best season was erased in part by the team's own tinkering. It speaks volumes of just how little the team pays attention to objective, intelligent analysis.
Of course, it could all be a PR stunt. The Marlins may simply be driving up the value of Oviedo by saying that they will indeed keep him, only to shop him around before the non-tender deadline next week. If the club maintains this stance then is able to find some team to bite on him in a trade, the return would almost be meaningless, as it would obviously be marginally better than receiving nothing by non-tendering. I suspect this is the way the team is going, and it would make me feel a lot better if this is what eventually happens by next week.