What If the Miami Marlins had signed Albert Pujols back In 2012?

MIAMI, FL - MAY 27: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on May 27, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MAY 27: Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on May 27, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

What would have happened if the Miami Marlins had succeeded in shocking the baseball world back in 2012, and actually signed Albert Pujols?

Once upon a time, the Miami Marlins had an opportunity to sign a Hall of Fame caliber player still believed to be in his prime.

Unfortunately, Miguel Cabrera was traded to Detroit when he got too expensive. Five years later though, they had another such opportunity. That’s right, for a little while there, it was certainly looking like Albert Pujols was going to be a Marlin.

It would have been quite the coup for a franchise that had been clamoring for respect for years, and was putting tons of money into the roster after years of penny pinching now that they were moving into a brand new ballpark. Of course, as it turned out, Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels instead. Signing with Miami sure would have made that home opener appointment television though, seeing as how the Opening Day opponent was the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ten years later, the Marlins are still clamoring for that national respect, and the Cardinals are coming to loanDepot Park once again. However, this time they are bringing Pujols with them, who resigned with St. Louis this offseason in hopes of making it a storybook ending to his illustrious career. So seeing as how all the key parties will be in town for the next few days, I thought it would be fun to contemplate one of the greatest what ifs in Miami Marlins history:

What if…Miami had signed Pujols to that massive, 10-yr contract?

Obviously, a transaction of that size has a ton of ripple effects, many of which would have been very far reaching. Even this 2022 Marlins team would likely look very different than it does now, although I think it would be safe to say Albert Pujols would still be more likely to be playing against Miami Tuesday evening than for them. To me, there are two paths to consider here: the 2012 season, and everything else.

The 2012 squad Miami did end up with…was a train wreck. Now, that season was the best of Pujols’ career since leaving St. Louis; he’d have trailed only Giancarlo Stanton in WAR and undoubtedly made those Marlins a better team. Still, nothing he did could have kept Heath Bell from being the worst closer in baseball that season, kept Hanley Ramirez from failing to regain his form, or kept his manager from candidly discussing his thoughts on Fidel Castro when the home ballpark was located in Little Havana. And those were just the greatest hits from what was ultimately an extremely flawed roster. That said, it is fair to wonder how many of Miami’s other signings would have actually happened. Perhaps another mix of players would have had more success. Playoff success though? Unlikely.

No, where it gets interesting is after 2012. What it really comes down to is just how tradable Pujols would have been. The report cited above, and years of established team policy to that point, indicate that a no-trade clause would not have been included in the deal. Since his 2012 was still a very good season, it is certainly possible Pujols just would have been dealt along with the rest of the big contracts on the books when that season went south. On the other hand, moving $250 million plus of salary would have been much more difficult than those other deals. Miami might have been stuck with him.

Either way though, it sets up very exciting possibilities for what the 2014 to 2016 Marlins might have looked like. Had even just Pujols himself been retained, I think it’s fair to argue that at least the 2014 Marlins make the playoffs. Stanton is never offered his massive contract if Pujols was on the books but is probably retained through at least that season. As for the 2016 club, the marriage of either one of those sluggers and whatever Miami got in exchange for the other one very likely pushes that team into the playoff picture as well. Especially if it was a pitching prospect that would have saved the team from doing something really desperate, like sign Wei-Yin Chen. Just imagine what might have been if some of that $80 million could have been spent elsewhere.

And all of that is without even really going into what those other pieces brought in back in 2012 would have been. High priced veteran free agents like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle had to go, and there is no way the Marlins could have afforded all three. Maybe one of them still gets signed, but no more. Would the same have been true of whoever else came in with Pujols? Very likely those would have been younger, cheaper additions. Ones that would have either survived the 2012 purge, or fetched better value in return.

Next. What Montoyo, Mattingly Have In Common. dark

The possibilities are as endless as careers are finite. Just something extra to keep in mind, Marlins fans, as we watch Albert Pujols play out the final season of his. Because he could have spent quite the chunk of it right here in Miami.