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Free-agent Pujols receives offer from Marlins
Pujols picked an unlikely locale to begin his free-agent tour Friday when he was courted in Miami by the Marlins, only hours before they officially changed their name during a ceremony at their new ballpark. Pujols had lunch with team officials, checked out the stadium and received a contract offer.
The notoriously thrifty franchise, suddenly in the mood for a spending spree, declined to disclose details of the contract proposal. Free agents Jose Reyes and left-hander Mark Buehrle also received offers after taking ballpark tours earlier this week.
“We’ve never been penny-pinchers,” owner Jeffrey Loria said. “We just haven’t had the ability to do it in the old stadium. Now we’re looking forward to a new era.”
The 31-year-old Pujols, a three-time NL MVP, is a free agent for the first time after spending his first 11 major league seasons with St. Louis. Pujols and the Cardinals didn’t discuss a contract extension during the season, which ended with a World Series title, but he hasn’t ruled out remaining in St. Louis.
“We’re just going to see where God takes us,” Pujols said last week.
It could be Miami, now that the Marlins have become aggressive free-agent shoppers. They expect crowds of more than 30,000 nightly next season, meaning a revenue increase that will allow the frugal franchise to be more active in free agency.
“We’re looking at everyone,” Loria said. “We want to make this team as special as we can. We would be foolish not to entertain the possibility of some of these players. It’s just one of those things that mean you’re going forward. We’ve had our hands tied for a long time. With this new stadium we want to step into a new light.”
New manager Ozzie Guillen is expected to help recruiting efforts.
“Miami is a magnet _ the city, the manager, the new ballpark, the players we have,” Loria said. “We have a terrific core here. All of it put together is the magnet.”
“It’s a problem we never suspected could happen,” Samson said. “It didn’t even occur to me. We have a first choice, a 1A and a 1B after 1. This week did not happen by accident. We knew who we wanted to see, and when we wanted to see them.”
Pujols would be the big prize. The Cardinals exercised a $16 million option on his contract after last season. The slugger rejected a multiyear extension that included a small percentage of the franchise during the winter, and cut off negotiations on the first day of spring training.
By Brahma Chellaney
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