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

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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.

Renfroe slam helps Rays sweep young Blue Jays in 1st round

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The Tampa Bay Rays gathered in front of their dugout and posed for a celebratory team picture they’re hoping will not be the last they take this postseason.

Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Rays won a postseason series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their wild-card matchup.

And with a roster featuring just a handful of players who have posted impressive resumes so far, the AL East champs believe they’re nowhere near finished.

“We’ve been confident since Day One. So if we put the our heads down and just do what we’ve been doing and prepare like we’ve been preparing, the sky’s the limit,” winning pitcher Tyler Glasnow said.

Said manager Kevin Cash: “We have very good players first and foremost.”

“I understand the back of the baseball card stuff and some of our guys are not as established,” he said. “What we do have, what makes it formidable is that the entire roster is used to help us win games. We do that consistently during the season and are definitely going to do it in the postseason.”

Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs – on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen – in six innings.

Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.

The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium – he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.

“The opportunity in front of us is where you want to be,” Cash said.

The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.

Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.

Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.

It was a disappointing finish for Toronto, which overcame a slow start to make a surprising run to its first playoff berth since 2016 with a roster featuring 19 players without previous major league playoff experience, including Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“Great season. I’m proud of my kids to make it to this point,” second-year Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“It’s obvious that the Rays are a pretty good team, that’s why they’re picked to go to the World Series,” he said. “In this series, we didn’t hit. We only scored three runs. That’s not enough to beat that team.”

The Rays, who won the opener 3-1 with a nice mix of pitching, defense and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series.

A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round – a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.

Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.

The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.

Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.

The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.

After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.

Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an offseason trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.

“They were getting hits off all my pitches. I don’t think they were necessarily sitting on one or something like that,” Ryu said through a translator. “I just didn’t have a good game.”

“We have a lot to be proud of, we really do,” Jansen said. “We knocked on the door and next year we’re going to be ready to go through it.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: 1B Rowdy Tellez, who had a pinch-hit single in Game 1 Tuesday, remained out of the starting lineup. He was placed on the 10-day IL on Sept. 9 with a right knee sprain and missed the rest of the regular season.

Rays: INF Yandy Diaz (right hamstring strain) started at third base, his first game since Aug. 31.

UP NEXT

The Rays will play in the AL division round for the sixth time in franchise history, with all of the appearances coming since 2008.

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