There are rumblings that the Angels and Marlins are expected to jump into the Albert Pujols bidding at some point.
But Neither team seems to have set a definite course towards trying to make the St. Louis slugger their first baseman in 2012.
I'm currently in Florida, and the talk here is that the Marlins plan to bump up their payroll considerably in 2012 as they move into a new stadium that is expected (hoped) to stabilize what has been a yo-yo of a franchise. They've won two World Series -- which one might think would make them local darlings. But then they followed each up with fire sales that turned off the fan base and drove away paying customers in droves.
According to the local media, the Marlins are interested in either Pujols or Brewers free agent Prince Fielder. Mark Buehrle was here earlier in the week to tour the new ballpark and meet with his former manager Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins are expected to make a play to add him to their rotation. There have also been rumors that the Fish might be willing to make a deal for Cubs malcontent starter Carlos Zambrano which could help the Wee Bears clear payroll for a potential run at Pujols.
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The Marlins had a payroll of $57 million in 2011 and they have said they're considering an increase to $80-$85 million for next season. So if they make a run at Pujols, it would seem that's about all they could afford to do. Would that be the best thing for a young team? And would it be the best thing for Pujols to shoe himself into an even smaller market?
Florida -- which will change its name to the Miami Marlins officially during a press conference tomorrow that will unveil their new uniforms -- seems like a much poorer bet to become a steady contender than the gig Pujols already had in St. Louis. Plus, given the franchise's history, could Pujols trust the team not to slash the payroll again in 2013? I can't imagine if the Marlins did offer Pujols a contract, given their shaky financial condition, that it would include a no-trade clause. And I don't think Pujols would care for that at all.
The Angels made a statement yesterday that they're interested in Pujols and that they can afford him because they are a high revenue team. But they said improving at first base isn't their priority and they plan to address other issues first. I'm sure Albert would love to play for a team that thinks of him as an afterthought.
The real meaning behind that statement is that the Angels would like to have Pujols -- if he turns out to be a bargain. They might be playing possum to keep from driving up the market, a real consideration since their public pursuit of the likes of Carl Crawford in years past resulted in them ultimately being outbid.
I still think the Rangers and the Cubs are the biggest threat to Pujols finishing his career in St. Louis. But the Angels and Marlins can't be discounted as dark horses in the Albert derby.