The Marlins aren't playing games with Albert Pujols. According to a Major League source, the Marlins are serious about signing the free agent first baseman and intend to make a competitive offer.
Pujols was in South Florida on Friday, lunching with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and other front office executives, who have spent the past week wooing other high-profile free agents, including Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. The Marlins also planned on giving Pujols a tour of their new ballpark, where later tonight the team will unveil its new logo and uniforms.
Pujols is the big prize in this year's free agent class and has reportedly received a nine-year, $200 million offer from the Cardinals to remain in St. Louis. Sources say that Loria, in particular, covets Pujols and envisions him at first base when the Marlins open their new stadium on April 4 -- against the World Series champion Cardinals, no less.
If the Marlins were somehow able to snag Pujols, it would seem inconceivable that they'd also land Reyes or Buehrle without increasing payroll to well over $100 million. But Loria is calling most of the shots now and is intent on creating a splash, both on the field and cosmetically, as the Marlins prepare to move into their new ballpark.
In addition to a lucrative contract offer, the Marlins will certainly use location in trying to reel in Pujols, a native of the Dominican Republic. When speaking about the Marlins' interest in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Marlins president David Samson said: "We think we're a great fit because we're Miami and we are a natural destination for any Cuban player, any Latin American player. We are the gateway to the Americas."
You can be sure Pujols heard those same words.