Discovering The Mystery Team(s)

Earlier this evening, it appeared as though the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins had scared off all other suitors, and were ready to square off as the only two teams remaining in the pursuit of free agent first baseman Albert Pujols.

But then with all the forcefulness that the rumour mongers can muster, it was revealed that another team had entered the fray.

First, it was thought that the Chicago Cubs, under the helm of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, might be up to some tricks learned from the latest auction reality show, driving up the cost of Pujols to a point where their rivals in St. Louis would either have to pay more than they wanted to retain their star’s services or to price them out all together and push him toward a new home in Florida. Or, then again, maybe the Cubs just wanted him for themselves.

It didn’t seem to matter much, because the rumour from Joel Sherman didn’t gain a whole lot of traction. Perhaps it was the unlikelihood of the bound to be rebuilding Cubs being involved or that such tactics are more often the flight of fantasy than the reality of baseball negotiations.

Nonetheless, a rumour that did pick up traction, was reported by Ken Rosenthal in the final hour of the day for those of us on the East Coast. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were attempting to make the Pujols Sweepstakes a three horse race.

Wait a minute. Isn’t Mark Trumbo the Angels’ first baseman? And didn’t he finish second in American League Rookie of the Year voting? If this rumour has any legs, it’s almost as though the Angels are putting more stock in the fact that Trumbo is a liability at the plate than in what the Baseball Writers’ Association of America think. Good luck ever getting in the Hall of Fame, now, Angels.

On a serious note, there are reasons to doubt this latest rumour. Namely, money. They’ve got a lot of it locked up in a particularly bad deal they made last season. However, Danny Knobler of CBS SportsJon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and Joel Sherman of the New York Post are all hearing that the mystery team is, in fact, the Angels.

Update (12:10 AM ET):  Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the reporter who first heard of the mystery team just revealed on a radio station in St. Louis that the Angels aren’t the team that he learned had offered Pujols a ten year deal in excess of $200 million. And for the record, it’s not the San Franciso Giants or the Texas Rangers either.

Meanwhile, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Chicago Cubs are “definitely not in.”

Hat tip to HardBall Talk for the Nightengale link.

There was some hope earlier today that a resolution on where Albert Pujols would be signing might occur sooner rather than later, but with all these rumours of the market expanding for his services, it could be a little while before it’s all figured out.