Free agent first baseman Albert Pujols is expected to begin a series of visits to potential bidders for his services this weekend when he meets with officials from the newly christened Miami Marlins.
Pujols has traveled to Puerto Rico and his native Dominican Republic during the past week. His return to St. Louis will come via South Florida, where he will meet with a franchise that envisions the three-time NL Most Valuable Player as part of a makeover that includes the opening of a new stadium next April.
Pujols may meet as soon as today with the Marlins, according to a Marlins source, but it is possible that logistics could dictate it be postponed as late as Sunday.
Pujols is expected to generate significant interest from as many as six teams and was greeted with inquiries from at least three clubs within 24 hours after the Cardinals’ lost exclusive negotiating rights with him.
The Cardinals have insisted they remain players for a talent who has spent his entire 11-year career in St. Louis. But they have not said they are prepared to dramatically improve last January’s bid of nine years for an average $22 million to $22.75 million.
The Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and perhaps the Los Angeles Angels are expected to engage Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano.
Though New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that his club did not intend to participate in bidding for Pujols, most expect Pujols to command more than $25 million per year, a threshold that so far has left the Cardinals squeamish.
New Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto insisted this week that his club is weighing a potential push for either Pujols or another superstar free agent first baseman, Prince Fielder.
Lozano could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The Marlins, who recently hired former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, have already met with free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes, though there is no indication the club tendered a formal offer. After ranking last in NL attendance (1.477 million) for a sixth straight season, the Marlins appear intent on marketing themselves around a signature player such as Pujols or Reyes while capitalizing on their new facility near downtown Miami.