Albert Pujols will get a huge contract, there's no doubt. But the team that will sign the three-time NL MVP remains unclear.
Will it be St. Louis, the team he's helped to two World Series titles in six seasons?
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.
Baseball's new Big Fish were the talk of the winter meetings, 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.
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.
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.”
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 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 completed 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.”