pujols getty

UPDATE: No mystery: It’s just the Marlins and Cardinals for Albert Pujols


12:57 AM: Jon Heyman chimes in, tweeting that “a good number of executives still seem to think Marlins will win Pujols derby.” The Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi was told that the Marlins are “very confident” they will land the three-time MVP.

12:48 AM: ESPN’s Jim Bowden and the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi are among those reporting that it’s strictly down to the Marlins and Cardinals. Capozzi reports that the Marlins have not set a deadline for Pujols to accept their offer, but that Pujols may make a decision before sunrise anyway.

11:47 PM: Our own Drew Silva brings word that Bob Nightengale of USA Today was just a guest on KMOX in St. Louis and said that the Angels are NOT the mystery team for Pujols. Neither are the Rangers or the Giants, by the way.

We may also have to eliminate the Cubs from the equation, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe hears that they are “definitely not in.”

11:43 PM: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com talked to two Angels’ executives who “seemed shocked” that they were being mentioned as the mystery team for Pujols. Meanwhile, Scott Miller of CBSSports.com is “highly skeptical” that the Angels are the third team in the mix.

And finally, courtesy of Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, here’s a picture of some Marlins’ writers staking out Jeffrey Loria at a shoeshine stand. It’s that kind of night.

10:58 PM: Sorry to spoil the party, everyone, but these talks may drag on into tomorrow. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com hears that while the Marlins would like a resolution, it’s unlikely to happen tonight.

By the way, we have a new horse in the race. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the Angels are pursuing Pujols and are having “ongoing conversations.”

10:14 PM: Joel Sherman of the New York Post was told by a “person involved” in talks that the Cubs are “definitely in” on Albert Pujols. It’s not clear whether they have improved their offer (or are the “mystery team” mentioned by Bob Nightengale earlier) but Sherman was told that they at least want to “make life miserable” by bidding against their division-rivals.

9:22 PM: The Marlins just emerged from their meeting with Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Marlins president David Samson said there’s “nothing to report.”

9:11 PM: Strap in, everyone. We could be nearing the end-game. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears that the Marlins expect a resolution on their bid for Pujols — one way or the other — by the end of the night.

8:47 PM: C’mon, you knew a mystery team would get involved sooner or later. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Albert Pujols has received three 10-year contract proposals exceeding $200 million. We already know the Cardinals and Marlins are in the mix, but it appears a third unidentified team has joined the bidding.

Nightengale hears that the Cubs have made an offer, but it’s for less than 10 years. Let your imagination run wild.

8:33 PM: Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post was told by a source that the Marlins and Albert Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, have been together in a meeting for the past half-hour.

7:48 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com was told by sources that the Marlins met with Dan Halem of the commissioner’s office earlier this evening to discuss matters relating to a possible contract for Albert Pujols.

This is potentially very significant, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News notes that he is Rob Manfred’s No. 2 in charge of approving contracts. No word on the exact nature of the meeting, but Miami’s proposed contract could potentially include deferred money.

7:14 PM ET: We could be approaching a resolution to the story that has taken the Winter Meetings by storm.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that they made a new offer to Albert Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano earlier today.

No word on the exact terms, but the Cardinals’ offer from earlier this year was reported to be somewhere in the range of $198-210 million over nine years. The Cardinals didn’t intend to budge from that, but their hand was forced after the Marlins boosted their offer to 10 years late last night.

According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the standing offer from the Marlins is believed to be worth $220 million over 10 years. St. Louis has been asked to match and Miami is said to be “pushing” for a resolution tonight. We’ll continue to track the latest here throughout the evening.

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.