Marlins trying to buy up the best of the pond
DALLAS – Jeffrey Loria quickly marched down the hallway with his team president, trailed by their top aides, and hustled into a meeting room with a labor lawyer from Major League Baseball.
Having already made the biggest splash at the winter meetings, the Miami Marlins owner was trying to reel in Albert Pujols and perhaps other big-name free agents with the newfound riches from their new ballpark.
"He's not the only guy," Loria said about 20 minutes later before heading back upstairs on an elevator with his delegation.
Baseball's new Big Fish were the talk of the winter meetings Tuesday, with teams wondering how close the Marlins were to an agreement with Pujols on a deal that could be worth $200 million or more over 10 years for the three-time NL MVP.
St. Louis said it submitted a new offer Tuesday to keep Pujols with the Cardinals, a team he's already led to two World Series titles in the last six seasons. Agents for other players said they had heard the Los Angeles Angels were bidding, too.
Traditional big spenders such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were reduced to spectators.
"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."
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 are 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 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 Andres Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramirez, 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 Nestor Molina, and the Minnesota Twins dealt right-hander Kevin Slowey to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named.
When the meetings reach their last full day Wednesday, roughly two dozen free agents must decide by midnight EST on salary arbitration offers from their former clubs. David Ortiz, who has said he wants to stay with the Boston Red Sox, appeared likely to accept.
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."
Reyes' deal is likely to be finalized on Wednesday. Miami already has an All-Star shortstop in Hanley Ramirez, and he appears headed to third base.
"Everybody it's waiting to see what's gonna happen with me or what I gonna do right? Ramirez 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."