Marlins sign Jose Reyes – let the winter meetings begin

New York Mets Jose Reyes reacts in the dug out in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field in New York City on July 16, 2011. UPI/John Angelillo

It appears as though both Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez will have new homes next season.

Pending a physical, the Reyes and the Miami Marlins have agreed to a six-year, $106 million deal. The 28-year-old shortstop hit .337 last season for the Mets and with Miami trying to draw good attendance for its new stadium, the Marlins put on a full-court press in attempts to sign Reyes over the past few weeks.

Reyes, who gives the Marlins an upgrade at shortstop defensively, will essentially force Ramirez to move to third base. When previously asked if he would be willing to change positions following reports that the Marlins were interested in Reyes, Ramirez said that, “I’m a shortstop.” But apparently he has agreed to play third now that Reyes is heading to Miami.

With the winter meetings starting up this week, more big signings could be on their way. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Carlos Beltran and C.J. Wilson are some of the biggest names that could be heading to different cities next season. There was a report last week that the Cubs were interested in signing Pujols, although that may just be a ploy in order to drive up the price for the Cardinals, who are Chicago’s most bitter rival. It’s assumed that Pujols wants to stay in St. Louis, but only if the price is right. His last contract was rather owner-friendly and he has already said that he isn’t willing to give a hometown discount to the Cardinals, although that could change.

While Fielder’s next destination is largely unknown, it appears as though it won’t be Milwaukee, where the first baseman has spent his entire career to this point. There has been at least one report, however, that said Fielder has narrowed his choices of where he wants to sign to the Blue Jays, Rangers and Brewers, with Toronto thought to be the favorite.

Now that Reyes is off the market, Jimmy Rollins should become the most sought after shortstop. There is speculation that the Brewers and Cardinals are the Phillies’ primary competition when it comes to signing Rollins, who batted .268 with 16 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 142 games this past season for Philadelphia. Rollins just turned 33 on November 27.

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Albert Pujols to meet with Florida Marlins?

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols watches his team bat against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 25, 2011. St. Louis won the game 3-2. UPI/Bill Greenblatt’s Matthew Leach is reporting that free agent Albert Pujols will meet with the Marlins within the next few days.

Pujols, 31, is the biggest name free agent on the market this winter, but one of several that Florida (soon to be Miami) is considering. The Marlins move into a new ballpark next season, and their payroll is expected to increase dramatically.

They have already met with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, and a Marlins contingent traveled to the Dominican Republic to see Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes this week as well. The Marlins have Gaby Sanchez at first base, but Pujols is the kind of unique talent who could certainly cause a team to rethink what it has in-house.

As Leach notes in his blog, the Cardinals are focused on hiring a manager following the departure of Tony La Russa. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to wooing Pujols, although it’s not like the slugger is going to sign with another team before giving the Cardinals a shot to counter. Everything I’ve heard out of St. Louis is that Pujols wants to be a Cardinal – he just doesn’t want to take a hometown discount in the process.

The Marlins seem hell bent on making sure they have a shiny new toy to display when they open up their new stadium next year. It says something about how the Fish view Hanley Ramirez as a centerpiece given that they’re talking to Reyes, who plays the same position as Ramirez (who is coming off a horrendous season due to injuries). If Florida winds up signing Reyes, Ramirez would likely switch to third base, a move he already seems resistant to.

La Russa: MLBPA forcing Pujols to ask for a record-setting contract

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa speaks to reporters before a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 13, 2010. La Russa who was given a two game suspension for his part in a bench clearing brawl during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati last week, will not manage the next two games. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Tony La Russa doesn’t believe that Albert Pujols is all about the money. He thinks it’s that damn Major League Baseball Players Association that is making Albert Pujols be all about the money.


St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he believes the Major League Baseball Players Association is attempting to “beat up” Albert Pujols and his agent in an attempt to get Pujols to sign a record-setting contract.

And that, La Russa said emphatically, “is bull—-. That’s not the way it should be.”

“I’m not saying that if I was a union representative I would do it differently,” the manager said. “I’m just saying I think it diminishes the other factors that a player looks at. … I think each negotiation should be based on what’s the best decision — taking everything into account, not taking one thing into account.”

But because the union sees Pujols as a player who can raise the salary bar, he’s under more pressure than your average player, La Russa said.

This sort of pressure has gone on for years, with many high-profile players, La Russa went on. But in Pujols’ case, he said, this was “not just arm-twisting. It’s dropping an anvil on your back through the roof of your house.”

La Russa said he had no specific evidence that Pujols was being pressured by the players union. But he said his many years in the game have made that “a guaranteed assumption. It’s gone on since I started managing. And I don’t think they’d deny it.”

I think the first sentence in that last paragraph sums up this situation nicely: La Russa has no evidence that the players union is pressuring Pujols.

Who knows, maybe La Russa is right and the union is pressuring players to get the most they can. But it’s not a stretch to think that the players and agents want to soak every last penny out of teams. Why wouldn’t they? If they’re lucky, players are able to land one, maybe two big contracts throughout their playing career, so you better believe they’re going to stretch the dollar amount as big as possible.

Besides, I don’t really see a benefit for the union to demand that players ask for as much money as possible. There’s already a natural order to the way contracts are done now. Player A makes X amount in 2010, then Player B makes a little more than what Player A made in 2011. Player C then makes a little more than Player B and the cycle never stops.

The union already has what it wants, so there’s no real need to put pressure on players. I think La Russa has just grown frustrated that this Pujols contract situation hasn’t been resolved and the players are set to report to spring training.

Report: Pujols rejects Cardinals’ latest offer

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols slaps his hands as he flies out, scoring a run in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 3, 2010. Pujols went hitless as St. Louis breaks a five game losing streak with a 3-2. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Albert Pujols rejected a recent contract offer by the Cardinals and is ready to cease all talks about a new deal until after the World Series.

Pujols, trying to avoid distractions, has no intention of addressing the contract talks when he reports Wednesday to the Cardinals’ spring-training camp in Jupiter, Fla. Manager Tony La Russa told reporters Sunday he will also encourage his players to avoid the issue.

“This is a spectacular distraction potentially,” La Russa said. “We won’t allow it to be.”

Even if Pujols continues his silence about his future, it won’t squelch the firestorm that has already been created in St. Louis. Newspaper columnists are picking sides. The phrase “#Albertageddon” is gaining popularity on Twitter. And a Web site — — is counting down to when he arrives at spring training and terminates negotiations.

“I read that he’s looking for $30 million a year, and I just can’t see how that’s going to happen,” said Andy MacPhail, Baltimore Orioles president of baseball operations, during a Q&A at the Baltimore School of Law Sports Symposium.

He may get $30 million a year but it probably won’t come from the Cardinals. As I’ve wrote for the past couple of weeks, St. Louis’ payroll usually never tops $100 million so it seems unlikely that the club would give one player $275 million over the span of 10 years. (Even if that player is Albert Pujols.)

I don’t think the Cards ever intended to give Pujols a new deal by his spring training deadline. They need more time to figure out what they’re going to do and they’ll be given that time when the season begins. But in the end, they’re still going to have to make a decision. Either pay the best player in the game what he wants or watch him walk out the door.

Report: Cardinals, Pujols have no chance to sign deal before deadline

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols stands as members of the team assemble for the team photo shoot before a game against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 17, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Jon Heyman decided to ruin Cardinals fans’ day with this little nugget of information via his Twitter:

word is, albert pujols and #cardinals are so far apart there is virtually no chance for a deal by his feb. 16 deadline

This isn’t surprising news. The Cardinals are clearly dragging their feet in hopes that Pujols will slip, fall, hit his head and wake up wanting to take less than $275 million over 10 years. But Pujols’ camp has already stated that his previous contract was at a discounted rate and now the slugger wants to get paaaaaid.

Pujols wants contract talks to halt once he shows up for spring training on February 16, so this is shaping up to be the distraction of the season. He won’t want to talk about becoming a free agent in 2012, but the media will be relentless with their questioning throughout the season. Are you still talking to the Cardinals about a contract extension? Do you want to play in St. Louis? Have you given any thought to where you’d like to play next season? Will you become a Yankee?

Ugh. I’m already dizzy just thinking about it.

Of course, the bottom line is that the Cardinals do have him under contract for one more year. So his deadline of February 16 is rather moot. Things could change rather quickly and if the Cards and Pujols can come to some sort of a comprise during the year, then great. Just because the Feb. 16 deadline comes and goes doesn’t mean that the slugger is destined to become a free agent at the end of the year. Granted, things don’t look good now but you never know what will happen three months from now.

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