In recent days, the Miami Marlins have been rumored to be interested in nearly every big name free agent available. They met with Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. They flew a contingent to the Dominican Republic to check out Yoennis Cespedes. They have been linked in rumors to Carlos Beltran, Prince Fielder, and Heath Bell.
But without a doubt, this is by far the biggest rumor concerning the Marlins that has hit the hot stove this offseason. Heck, possibly ever.
An industry source told MLB.com on Thursday that Pujols’ camp is scheduled to meet in Miami with the Florida Marlins within the next few days, possibly as early as Saturday. (Matthew Leach, MLB.com)
Albert Pujols is the biggest name on the free agent market, and he’s widely expected to sign a deal worth in excess of $150 million. He’s been the best first baseman in the majors over the past 10 years, and his career is currently on track for the Hall of Fame. To state the obvious, if the Marlins could sign him, it would be a coup for their franchise.
There are two possible scenarios here: the Marlins are seriously considering making a run at Pujols, or they are merely trying to stir up interest in the club in an effort to reinvigorate their fanbase. With their new stadium set to open, they are certainly going to spend money this offseason, but the common assumption has been that they would increase their payroll to around the $80-100 million level. If they are serious about courting Pujols and about upgrading their rotation, though, the Marlins may have to push their payroll even higher than that. Considering the Marlins already have a competent first baseman in Gaby Sanchez, signing Pujols would seem like an inefficient use of budget room.
And yet….signing Pujols would be a huge splash. That move alone would show the Miami area that the Marlins were serious about becoming contenders, and that they had left their small-market, penny pinching days behind them. The move would re-energize their fanbase like no new stadium or logo ever could, and it would provide them with a star Hispanic player to build their marketing around. Pujols would become the poster boy for the Miami area, and I have no doubt that the fans would come pouring in to see him play.
If nothing else, you have to admire the Marlins’ aggressiveness. Even if they lose out on many of these big name free agents, they have certainly turned turned themselves into major players in the free agent market in a little less than one week.