The Winter Meetings have become the Albert Pujols sweepstakes as the most lucrative bidding war in baseball history has the superstar first baseman mulling over contract offers of excess of 200 million dollars over 10 years.
The three-time MVP is reportedly in the middle of deciding between three teams that have offered 10-year contracts worth more than $200 million, USA Today reported, citing an official close to the negotiations.
The Miami Marlins were the first to offer him a contract earlier in the day, before being followed by the St. Louis Cardinals and a third team that refused to be publicly identified.
The Chicago Cubs also made an offer, the official told USA Today, but it was for less than 10 years.
FOX Sports reported that the Los Angeles Angels were pursuing Pujols as well but it was unclear whether they were the third team that made a 10-year offer.
The suddenly free-spending Marlins were expecting a decision on their offer to come later Tuesday night, ESPN reported. On Wednesday, Fox Sports Senior Baseball Writer Ken Rosenthal reported on twitter that the Marlins have made their final offer to Pujols but that an additional meeting with Pujols' agent Dan Lozano is still possible.
One potential hang-up to a deal with the Marlins is Pujols' reported desire for a no-trade clause. Marlins president David Samson has said repeatedly that the team will not budge from its policy against no-trade clauses. According to the Miami Herald, the Marlins met briefly with the commissioner’s office to go over a contract proposal "that has been described as creative, could involve deferred money, and will not contain the no-trade clause that Pujols requested. But it is a 10-year deal that would continue paying Pujols until he’s 42."
Their offer to Pujols comes after the Marlins signed shortstop José Reyes and closer Heath Bell over the past week and met twice Monday with Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano. Another meeting with Lozano lasted more than an hour Tuesday, the Herald reported.
If the Marlins add Pujols, the team will have piled up $350-$400 million in salaries after Reyes' six-year, $106 million deal and Bell's three-year, $27 million contract. The spending spree comes with the Marlins set to open a new ballpark next season under new manager Ozzie Guillen.
The Reyes' deal is likely to be completed Wednesday. Miami already has an All-Star shortstop in Hanley Ramírez, and he appears headed to third base. However, according to a report by ESPN Deportes LosAngeles on Tuesday, Ramírez is so unhappy with the idea of playing third he wants to be traded. A report that Larry Beinfest, the teams General Manager, said was news to him.
“I don’t know where some of this stuff is coming from,” Beinfest said to the Herald. “It’s news to me if he’s asked to be traded.”
"Everybody it's waiting to see what's gonna happen with me or what I gonna do right?" Ramírez wrote on Twitter. "What I am gonna do is work hard and get ready for next season because that is the only thing I can control I love y'all!!!."
St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak confirmed his club increased its offer for the first time since Pujols rejected a nine-year proposal for about $195 million in January, USA Today reported.
Mozeliak said he was "hopeful" and that he expected a decision would come quickly.
"There has been no hard deadline set, but I do get the sense they're going to move this thing forward, sooner than later," he said.
Pujols, who will turn 32 next month, hit .299 last season with 37 homers and 99 RBIs while battling pain in his left elbow. He helped the Cardinals to their second World Series title since 2006.
So, will it be St. Louis, the team he's helped to two World Series titles in six seasons?
Or will it be the new-look Miami Marlins, whose newfound riches from their new ballpark are dominating the free-agent market?
The Los Angeles Angels, until now in the background?
"He's not the only guy," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said Tuesday, trailed by media whenever he walked the hallways.
St. Louis said it submitted a new offer Tuesday to keep Pujols. Agents for other players said they had heard the Angels were bidding, too.
"They have a new stadium. They're excited about it, and it's good for baseball," former Marlins and current Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They had hoped that they'd get the new stadium and they would be able to do those types of things. Our roster is pretty set. We have a lot of guys that are on long-term deals. That's why maybe there's not a lot happening for us."
When the winter meetings were at the same hotel in 2005, Paul Lo Duca, Juan Pierre and Todd Jones followed Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Guillermo Mota, Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo out of Florida as the Marlins cut payroll from $56 million to $21 million.
Now they're a different kind of team. Having already reached deals with All-Star closer Heath Bell ($27 million for three years) and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes ($106 million for six), the Marlins' interest in Pujols is real. What's unclear is whether the first baseman is prepared to go to Miami or whether his talks with the Marlins were an attempt to push the Cardinals higher.
"I know the ownership group is putting their best foot forward and trying to do everything that they can to make this possible," new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "but I also know it's a complicated decision on both sides. There's a lot going on, a lot that I'm not even involved in, but I think it's clear to say that the St. Louis Cardinals would love to have Albert, and we'll see how it all plays out."
With the Angels, Pujols could take over at first base from Mark Trumbo, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot and could be shifted to third.
"He's become a very proficient first baseman, and hopefully that comfort level, catching a ground ball and the activities you need to play there will translate over to third base," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Elsewhere, Prince Fielder was still in play in the hitters' market, and C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle were among the available starting pitchers on the second day of the four-day swap session, which has been relatively slow.
The New York Mets agreed to trade outfielder Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Andrés Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramírez,and reached agreements with free-agent relievers Frank Francisco ($12 million for two years) and Jon Rauch ($3.5 million for one year). While the moves were not formally announced, Mets manager Terry Collins discussed them.
The Chicago White Sox traded closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitching prospect Néstor Molina, and the Minnesota Twins dealt right-hander Kevin Slowey to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named.
AL champion Texas planned to meet Tuesday night with Wilson, the chatty left-hander who went 16-7 during the regular season but was 0-3 in October.
"We're just staying in communication, that's all we've agreed to do," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We just agreed to stay in touch, keep each other posted and keep a dialogue. We're not holding him up, and he's not holding us up."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press and Newscore.