UPDATE: The Marlins have improved upon their initial offer to Albert Pujols

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UPDATE II: It’s fair to say that Pujols’ agent walked away from tonight’s meeting happy. Scott Miller of CBSSports.com reports that the Marlins have “boosted” their nine-year offer to the free agent first baseman.

No word on the specific terms, but “one person with knowledge of the talks” said negotiations will likely play out more before a decision is reached. The Marlins’ initial reported offer was said to be for significantly less than the nine-year, $198-210 million deal offered by the Cardinals earlier this year, so this may not mean a lot yet.

UPDATE: Jayson Stark of ESPN.com confirms that the Marlins and Pujols’ agent will indeed meet again tonight.

8:03 PM: It appears that the Marlins and Dan Lozano, the agent for Albert Pujols, are already setting up another meeting, having met already once this afternoon.

The Cardinals, too, are due to meet again with Lozano. According to Newsday’s Ken Davidoff, they view the Marlins as a real threat to land the three-time MVP.

St. Louis isn’t known to have made a new offer to Pujols since he turned down a nine-year, $198 million extension in January, and reports indicate that they’re not willing to go much higher now. While $200 million sounds nice, the $22 million per year would put Pujols behind Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Joe Mauer, Johan Santana and Mark Teixeira in terms of annual salary.

Despite having already spent $106 million on Jose Reyes and $27 million on Heath Bell, the Marlins look like legitimate suitors for Pujols. They’d certainly have to eclipse the Cardinals’ offer to have a shot, but as much as Pujols is believed to enjoy playing in St. Louis, he may not take kindly to the perceived lack of respect being displayed in contract negotations. Pujols has never come close to earning what he’s worth, and while it’s true that the Cardinals don’t rake in dollars like the Yankees and Red Sox, they did outbid everyone for a premier talent in Matt Holliday two years ago.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.