According to Steve Berthiaume the answer is a yes.
“I think they were a lot closer to getting Albert Pujols than anybody knows or anybody talked about. I think the Votto money was targeted for Pujols in the offseason and when that didn’t pan out that they said, OK, let’s keep our guy, let’s give it to Joey Votto. I think those two were more connected than anyone realizes.”
I don't know how much stock I put into this, but if this is true, how did news of this never leak out? GM Walt Jocketty shot down these claims today but honestly, did he have any other choice?
When writer John Fay asked about the rumor, Jocketty said,
“It would be different if came from a credible source. Someone played it for me. Even the guy with him tried to blow it off."
Like I said though, what other choice did he have but to deny these claims?
If you're a GM who just put all your faith in your star first baseman, you don't go out and readily confirm the claims that you were courting Albert Pujols.
It also does make at least a little sense considering the history between Jocketty, the Cardinals and Albert Pujols. Any rumor involving former Cardinals players and the Reds seems to have a hint of credibility due to this connection.
Let's assume Jocketty was lying. Consider the possibilities of this signing for a minute.
You bring in Albert Pujols to play first base and ship Joey Votto off for a stud left fielder and solid pitcher and a few prized prospects.
I love Joey Votto, and I'm thrilled that he's going to spend the rest of his career with the Reds.
However, it's tantalizing to think of all the possibilities this signing could have opened up.