DALLAS – The new Miami Marlins introduced their new shortstop – Jose Reyes(notes) – on Wednesday morning, two days after introducing their new closer – Heath Bell(notes), and then hinted at the question that hung in the room.
"This," club president David Samson said, "was always a three-part move."
By mid-afternoon, the Marlins had added free-agent left-hander Mark Buehrle. That would seem to be three full parts, so perhaps the free-spending Marlins had upped their plan to four parts.
According to reports, first by FoxSports.com, Buehrle agreed to a four-year, $58-million contract. The contract was pending a physical.
That left the subject of Pujols, and whether the Marlins had moved on, ceding him to the St. Louis Cardinals or a newly interested team, or they were about to go bigger than anyone had imagined.
Through the week they’d been locked in battle with the Cardinals, along with as many as two or three other peripheral teams (the Chicago Cubs among them) for Pujols, who soon will choose from between at least two $200 million-plus, decade-long offers.
Amid reports the Marlins had made their final offer, and as the Cardinals continued to manipulate their offer, and as other clubs poked their heads into agent Dan Lozano's hotel suite (perhaps out of sheer curiosity), the Pujols destination remained the theme of the winter meetings.
As of Wednesday morning, there were no plans to bring Pujols to Dallas. His decision could come within hours or linger further, though presumably the Marlins had been eager to get on with Part III (and IV), whether that be Pujols, Mark Buehrle(notes) or a trade, likely for a starting pitcher.
As it was, they’d spent $191 million on free agents over a few long days in December, remaking their club on the fly.
"The third part may not be a free agent," Samson had said.
To which owner Jeffrey Loria added, "The answer to this is, 'Stay tuned.'"
Added Samson: "There's a lot of possibilities."
They frequently finish each other's sentences.
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The rebuild of the Marlins – of their ballclub, their home field and their reputation – began two days before, when Bell donned his jersey and said he believed the Marlins were constructed to win the National League East with or without more acquisitions.
"I share his optimism," Loria said. "If everybody stays healthy. That's the caveat."
He is, by most accounts, displeased at the notion of giving up his position at 27 years old. Amid speculation he would request a trade, the Marlins insisted Ramirez was on board, despite evidence to the contrary.
Loria said he telephoned Ramirez immediately after coming to agreement with Reyes on the six-year, $106-million contract. And while he would not specifically speak to Ramirez's reaction, Loria said, "He was talking about his relationship with Jose, what a good guy he is.
"He's going to be a member of this team."
Said Samson: "He wants to win. We want to win."
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One last piece of business was Reyes' hair. The Marlins insist on well-groomed, tightly cropped 'dos. Reyes arrived at Wednesday's press conference with his hair shoulder-length.
"We have team rules," Loria said.
"And everybody adheres to the team rules," Samson finished.
So, as morning ended and the Marlins returned to the business of Pujols and beyond, they returned to the negotiations of the day and the specter of a fresh start, albeit with one tiny sobering notion.
"We need to win," Samson said. "But you don't win pennants in December."