FOR THE SECOND time in 3 days, the Miami Marlins walked up to the winter meetings podium to introduce a high-priced free agent while working doggedly behind the scenes to bring more sparkling stars to baseball's newest ballpark.
The Marlins, dominating the market under art dealer-owner Jeffrey Loria, increased their spending spree to $191 million in less than a week, agreeing yesterday to a 4-year, $58 million contract with lefthander Mark Buehrle just hours after finalizing a deal with All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.
"Now how about three more?" new manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Hey, you shoot for the moon, just in case."
With Albert Pujols unwilling to accept their $200 million-plus offer, the Marlins turned their attention to pitching in an effort to get off to a quick start in April at their $515 million, retractable-roof stadium. It has never been clear that the three-time NL MVP, coming off his second World Series title in six seasons, would be willing to leave the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I'm hoping they keep the other animal in St. Louis," said former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, now skipper of the NL East rival Atlanta Braves.
Guillen and Buehrle were together on the Chicago White Sox this season, when the 32-year-old pitcher went 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA and won his third straight Gold Glove.
"This kid is special," Guillen said. "He pitched in the big scenarios, big moments, very tough city to pitch. When people love you in Chicago that means something."
Buehrle's deal is subject to a physical, which the sides were arranging.
Reyes, a four-time All-Star, finalized a 6-year, $106 million contract, 2 days after closer Heath Bell completed a 3-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins. Wanting to get started with talks right away, Loria and Marlins officials met Reyes and his agent in New York just past midnight on Nov. 3, the start of the signing period, at a table outside Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle hotel in New York.
"12:01. Those guys are crazy," Reyes said. "They showed me a lot of the cash-strapped Mets, who signed him when he was 16, never made a formal offer.
"If you're asking whether I should have sent him a box of chocolates, perhaps I should have done that," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "But on the other hand, the box of chocolates would have cost $106 million."
While Pujols still had not announced a decision, there were other moves on the third day of the four-day session.
Colorado traded closer Huston Street to San Diego for a player to be named and cash, Minnesota finalized a $4.75 million deal with closer Matt Capps and Pittsburgh completed agreements with left-hander Eric Bedard ($4.5 million) and outfielder Nate McLouth ($1.75 million).
San Francisco finalized a trade to obtain outfielder Angel Pagan and a player to be named or cash from the New York Mets for outfielder Andres Torres and righthander Ramon Ramirez.
Outfielder Nate McLouth agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with Pittsburgh, returning to the team he spent his most productive seasons with from 2005-09 before being traded to Atlanta. The Pirates also agreed to terms with lefthander Erik Bedard, who went 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA with Seattle and Boston last season.
The New York Yankees, unusually quiet at the annual gathering, won negotiating rights to shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Seibu Lions in Japan's Pacific League. If they sign him within 30 days, they would pay the Lions a posting fee of about $2 million.
In the evening, about two dozen free agents offered salary arbitration last month had to decide whether to accept by the last night's midnight deadline.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels sounded resigned to losing ace lefthander C.J. Wilson, another pitcher Miami had pursued.
"I haven't received a call to say he's chosen to go elsewhere, but we're prepared for that call," Daniels said.
A ball that Derek Jeter fouled off during the at-bat that produced his 3,000th hit is up for auction by Lelands.com.