So, the current buzz is that the Marlins are still going after Pujols, but they mean it this time!
Really, I’m still skeptical for several reasons. First, the Cardinals were apparently the only team left standing on Pujols as recently a week ago, meaning that they didn’t need to raise their bid for his services. Now, suddenly, the Marlins (and Cubs!) are showing interest. This seems an awful lot like the classic “mystery team” ploy (or, it could be both teams trying to force the Cardinals to up their offer, which would more or less be the same thing, just a different instigator).
But there are other issues. I’m not so sure the Marlins are even able to do so, and even if they are capable of placing the highest offer, I’m not quite sure why they would want to do so. First, as to whether they can offer such a contract, Baseball-Reference lists that the 2011 Marlins had a payroll of $57.2 million. For 2012, they’ve already committed $45.2 to returning, without factoring in the raises certain players will make in arbitration (the most notable of whom is Anibal Sanchez) or any free agents who might return (last that I heard, they were the favorites for both Omar Infante and Javier Vazquez, and both players make sense for them). These moves will likely push their payroll back over the $50 million mark, probably closer to last year’s $57.2 million or higher.
On top of that, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell are now on board for nearly $27 million, which brings the team’s payroll closer to something like $83 million. That’s nearing one-and-a-half times their payroll from last year, assuming that they don’t sign anybody else. The Cardinals’ offer to Pujols isn’t confirmed, but the lowest number we’ve heard is $198 million over nine years, or $22 million per year. This would more or less guarantee that the Marlins are doubling their payroll in a single offseason. Factor in that they’re still pursuing Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson and this makes their plans of signing Pujols seem even more unrealistic. Both of those pitchers will probably sign for an average annual value of something between $12 and $20 million. Can a team add something like $65 million dollars in payroll a year after only spending $57.2 million overall?
You can see why I’m skeptical.
Furthermore, I’m confused as to why the Marlins would make Pujols their primary topic. They have much more pressing needs. Signing Reyes fixed third base (regardless of whether he or Hanley Ramirez moves there), but that still leaves weaknesses at catcher, center field, and in the rotation, all of which could probably be filled for less. Also, the team has solid first baseman Gaby Sanchez, fresh off of his first All Star game, and promising young first baseman-masquerading-as-a-left fielder Logan Morrison*.
*My take on the situation would be to deal Sanchez to a team with pitching or outfield depth to make room for Morrison. Morrison is younger, cheaper, and, at 23, still has a lot of time to improve. Sanchez is 27, meaning he’s unlikely to get any better. Dealing him while his value is highest to fix another roster issue would be a smart move.
If the Marlins do have extra money that’s burning a hole in their pockets, they would probably be better off spending it on another starter, or locking up young star Mike Stanton long term, or signing Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes*, all of which would address a more pressing need than adding a third first baseman.
*On a side note, can you imagine the marketing possibilities for Miami if they were to sign a hyped Cuban prospect? The Marlins would probably gain more than most other teams by signing him.