While you can never completely trust baseball front offices or – gasp – media reports, it appears that the market for Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder is considerably smaller than expected.
Part of that is the perceived price tag: Fielder and agent Scott Boras are looking for a deal that could span 10 years and pay Fielder $250 million.
At the general managers meetings in Milwaukee, teams were lining up to say ‘no, thanks’ – which brought a stirring in the hearts of Seattle Mariners fans. If the market for Fielder is small, their chance to land him grows.
In theory, yes.
The big spenders in the game – the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers – have all been quoted as having no interest. Teams with their own All-Star caliber first baseman aren’t looking to double up at the position, and Fielder has made it clear he doesn’t want to be a designated hitter.
The Rangers and Angels say they aren’t in the Fielder sweepstakes, either. And Milwaukee seems willing to move on without Prince. So who is in the race?
Florida pursued Albert Pujols, but if he says no they might make an offer to Fielder. Similarly, the Chicago Cubs with their new front office have hinted interest. There’s talk the Baltimore Orioles will at least make an offer, and then there are the Mariners.
I’ve maintained from the beginning the Mariners were in danger, given Boras and his history, of being used to drive Fielder’s price up. The big-ticket Boras free agents Seattle landed in the past included Richie Sexson, who wanted to play in the Northwest, and Adrian Beltre, who wanted to stay in the west. He’s not an agent who guides his players to discount shopping.
All of that skirts the issue, however – is Fielder the answer in Seattle?
For the cost, he’d better be, because he’s going to eat up as much as 23 per cent of the team’s payroll should he sign. Obviously, he’d be a quantrum leap beyond what Justin Smoak has done at first base, and the Mariners need for a true heart-of-the-lineup hitter goes back to 2002.
But can Fielder or any single hitter turn a fourth-place team into a contender? Remember, Texas is coming off back-to-back World Series appearances, and the second-place Angels finished 19 games ahead of the Mariners in 2011.
All that said, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik knows Fielder and what he can and cannnot do. Jack Z. knows his budget, his roster and the way he’s trying to rebuild the franchise.
He would also dearly love to sign a free agent capable of making fans – and ownership – forget the signings of Chone Figgins, Jack Cust and Jack Wilson.
Expecct the suspense to continue. With Pujols on the market and drawing more attention, Boras may have no choice but to wait until the St. Louis first baseman makes his decision. And even then, the Mariners will have a tough sale to make.
Fielder is coming off a post-season run with the Brewers, and he’s going to sign with a team that hasn’t been in the playoff since 2001?
Bottom line: As long as Prince Fielder is in play, Boras will keep Seattle’s name popping up. An awful lot would have to go right for the Mariners to land him, however. And that might be a good thing in the long run.