Albert Pujols' tenure in St. Louis may be over
Albert Pujols, the most feared hitter of the last decade in Major League Baseball, is available via free agency.
Thus far, only two major contenders have been confirmed, the team that brought him through the minors and made him a star, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Miami Marlins, a team that has hovered in the middle of the NL East standings but is suddenly making major transformations this offsesason.
While Pujols certainly owes loyalty to the St. Louis organization and their fans, the Miami Marlins have put together an impressive 10-year contract and created a buzz around Major League Baseball that they are ready to be contenders.
Heath Bell and Jose Reyes paved the way to Miami; now Albert Pujols will be the next to "take his talents to South Beach."
The days of the Florida Marlins are gone. Now dubbed the Miami Marlins, the name change is just the beginning of drastic transformations occurring in South Beach.
Along with the new name, the Marlins built a beautiful new ballpark to replace the dreadful Sunlife Stadium and will take the field wearing flashy new uniforms. These changes are sure to bring in thousands of more fans, as well as attract free agents available on the market.
In addition, the Marlins brought in colorful veteran manager Ozzie Guillen to lead the team into their new age.
Why this matters to Pujols: Albert Pujols has already accomplished nearly every possible feat in St. Louis (World Series champion, MVP, All-Star). As a result, he can break ties with his former team and move on to the Marlins to prove he can win anywhere. With a brand new stadium and warm weather year-round, Miami must be an enticing option for Pujols.
Heath Bell went to Miami, is Pujols next?
Along with their new stadium, the Marlins have upgraded their roster as well. This winter, Miami has made the biggest splash in free agency by signing All-Star closer Heath Bell and reigning NL batting champion Jose Reyes.
Bell is a much-needed addition to the bullpen after crisis ensued when former Marlins closer Leo Nunez was determined to be playing under a fake name. Likewise, Reyes addresses their need for a table-setter at the top of the batting order, although he will force good friend Hanley Ramirez to move to another position.
Why this matters to Pujols: If two of the biggest free agents on the market are willing to sign with Miami, there must be something special about the organization. The Marlins' willingness to spend this offseason is uncharacteristic, but with a chance to play alongside fellow superstars, Pujols needs to consider Miami.
Albert Pujols could join Alex Rodriguez as a player guaranteed ten seasons with one contract
Over the past few days, it has been rumored that the Marlins put a 10-year contract offer on the table for Pujols. Although it isn't the organization that raised him, it is a startling number of years that would be hard to turn down (10 years could very well be the last contract he will ever sign).
With the Cardinals only willing to offer seven years thus far, Pujols could guarantee himself more years and more money by accepting the Marlins offer.
Why it matters to Pujols: Peace of mind. If the Marlins current offer stands, Pujols would be signed through the next 10 years, during which he would make over $200 million. With a 10-year contract, Albert would be able to settle down in Florida for an extended period of time without worrying about moving his family again.
The Cardinals missed their chance to resign Pujols during spring training
During the 2010-2011 winter meetings and spring training, the Cardinals had a chance to secure Pujols long term without having to worry about other teams negotiating with him.
When this did not happen, Pujols was visibly aggravated, almost appearing offended by how the St. Louis front office had treated him. Even during this year's Winter Meetings, the Cardinals have not made any considerable contract offer for their franchise player.
Why it should matter to Pujols: Although Pujols knows how much he means to the city of St. Louis, the franchise hasn't been as willing to pay him as they probably need to be. With Miami offering a 10-year contract that St. Louis won't, the Marlins' respect for him may be enough to persuade him.
As of December 6th, there have only been two main contenders for Pujols, the Marlins and Cardinals. Apparently, a third mystery team (presumably the Angels) is making a late run for Albert, but even so, only three teams are going after one of the best hitters in baseball history.
While part of this is that Pujols will demand outrageous money that some teams don't have and first base is a position that can be readily replenished in the MLB, it has to be frustrating for Pujols to not have to fend off potential suitors.
Why it should matter to Pujols: The lack of teams approaching Pujols is definitely going to limit his options. If he continues to have unsuccessful negotiations with St. Louis, Miami may be his only choice if he is looking for over $200 million.
The decision for LaRussa to retire was an emotional one
As stated earlier, Pujols has already accomplished everything imaginable in St. Louis. Further motivation to move on from the organization is the retirement of Tony LaRussa.
Pujols and LaRussa were one the most famous recognizable player-coach relationships in all of Major League Baseball, but now Tony is being replaced by Mike Matheny, who has no big-league managing experience.
Had LaRussa continued to manage the Cardinals, Pujols would have been more likely to stay in St. Louis out of respect for his coach. However, now that he's gone, Pujols' commitment to the franchise likely is too.
Why it should matter to Pujols: There is a major difference between playing for a manager you love and respect and playing for a first-year guy with no professional experience. The Tony LaRussa era in St. Louis is over, so Pujols should leave with it.
Hanley Ramirez is one of the Domincan Republic's premiere players
Going into a new clubhouse can be a scary experience for a ballplayer, but much of the fear related to the transition can be eased by already having familiar faces around it.
Fellow Dominicans Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, two of the younger stars in baseball, would surely welcome Pujols with open arms.
Collectively, the Marlins are one of the most Hispanic teams in baseball, and this could be a selling point for Pujols because it would instantly bond him with many of his new teammates. There is no doubt that the Hispanic community in Miami would also embrace him as a godly figure.
Why it should matter to Pujols: 'The Machine" is presented with a tremendous opportunity to play out a long-term contract with some of his fellow countrymen in a community that embraces Hispanic ballplayers. Although the fan support in St. Louis is tremendous, it could be even better in Miami.
Ozzie Guillen is in his first season as Miami's manager
New Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is no rookie when it comes to coaching in Major League Baseball. A World Series champion, Guillen has a proven track record that will be attractive to many free agents on the market this season.
Although unconventional and famous for his rants to umpires and the media, players always seem to respond to Guillen's antics.
Guillen has been around the game for a long time as both a player and coach, so he understands what his players are going through and how to push them to get the most out of them.
Why it should matter to Pujols: The Marlins reeled in a big-name manager to turn the franchise around and who is an avid supporter of Pujols' abilities. The two could inevitably form a strong player-coach bond that points the Miami franchise in the right direction.
Although Pujols will make a tremendous amount of money wherever he decides to play, Florida's policy of no income tax could be an attractive sell to the All-Star slugger. As a result, a contract is worth up to 10 percent more than it would be elsewhere.
However, Pujols will still have to pay a slight income tax known as the "jock tax." Albert won't spend a dime on income tax when playing home games, but all professional athletes are required to pay the higher of the home team or road team's state income tax when serving as the visiting team.
Still, a 162-game season means that 81 of Pujols' game will be played income tax-free.
Why it should matter to Pujols: Although Pujols has always been extremely generous with his money (he has his own charity, which he pours millions of dollars into a year), the increased income is a factor that anybody would have to consider. A 10-year contract primarily free of income tax increases the attractiveness of Miami's offer.
The Marlins are a young and exciting team to watch
The Miami Marlins, although young, have many superstars on the rise.
In the outfield in particular, Mike Stanton is among the most powerful hitters in baseball, and Logan Morrison will have no problem hitting 20 or more home runs a season. Hanley Ramirez, although he struggled mightily last season, is not far removed from his years of hitting over .300 and approaching 30 home runs.
Likewise, a speed threat such as Jose Reyes to bat in front of him with present Pujols with numerous chances for RBI. On the mound, Josh Johnson has Cy Young potential and closer Heath Bell was an All-Star last season.
Why it should matter to Pujols: Pujols could leave St. Louis for beautiful Miami weather without having to significantly downgrade the talent surrounding him. Although the pitching staff is not as impressive, the strength of the lineup is among the best in Major League Baseball. Heading to Miami still gives Pujols the chance to win immediately.