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The Detroit Tigers' defense might actually be a little better than expected this season, but it still might cost them the AL Central.
People had a lot of issues with the Detroit Tigers signing Prince Fielder to a nine-year contract. They had issues with the part where the Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year contract. And they have issues with the part where the Tigers plan to shift Miguel Cabrera to third base. Miguel Cabrera has been a third baseman before. It wasn't awesome.
But hey, good news! Miguel Cabrera is lighter now!
Alex Avilla joins bbtn at 330et says he's working out with Cabrera and that Cabrera has lost 25 pounds and is excited about moving to 3rd
Without any snark, it's definitely not a bad thing that Cabrera has lost weight. And it's definitely not a bad thing that Cabrera is excited about the new challenge. Cabrera could be more of a lil' bitch about the situation, like Hanley Ramirez, but he's opted to stay positive. Positive attitudes can lead to positive results!
It's just - it's not as simple as losing weight. Not that anybody's asserting that it's as simple as losing weight, but dropping 25 pounds is not going to make Cabrera a good defensive third baseman. It might help a little bit, but the issue is more about instinct, reads, and range, and being a little lighter only changes so much. Cabrera's going to try hard, and that's terrific, but he's probably still going to be more of a problem than an asset. In the field.
Good for Cabrera's heart, though. Shedding weight is good for the heart! Unless you shed too much weight.
Friday night, Cecil Fielder and Tino Martinez were inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame. Which gave Fielder a soapbox. And apparently rumors of a rapprochement between Cecil and son Prince -- who recently signed with the Detroit Tigers, for whom Prince starred 20 years ago -- were greatly exaggerated. Marc Topkin:
Cecil Fielder said Prince has no relationship with any members of their extended family, including his ill grandparents; he "hides behind" agent Scott Boras' representatives to dodge discussing his family; and he shows no appreciation for those who helped him along the way.
For example, Cecil Fielder said: "We all knew the kid was obese. He had a hard time running to first base without getting tired. You don't transform your body by yourself, you've got to have trainers, you've got to have people cooking for you, there's a lot of things that go into that. ...
"There's a lot of people that wish he would get over whatever he's got going on with his self. ... And once he gets rid of that, I think those people he needs to reach out to other than me, I think hopefully he will."
Here's the kicker: Cecil Fielder also said (as he has before) that he's "going to take the high road".
All of which leaves me with just one question:
What, exactly, would the low road look like?
Our first surprise this week came when Prince Fielder signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a nine-year contract with the Detroit Tigers! If you went out today and bought 100 parakeets, almost all of them would be dead of natural causes before Prince Fielder's contract expires.
Our second surprise this week came when the Tigers said that, in order to accommodate Fielder at first base, they're moving Miguel Cabrera to third. Cabrera has been a third baseman before - hell, Cabrera has been a shortstop before - but a third baseman these days he ain't. It seems like a hell of a gamble.
SI's Joe Sheehan doesn't like the gamble. In his words:
The Tigers simply don't have the roster to have forcing Cabrera to third base make any sense at all. It's one thing to take a huge defensive hit to get your best team on the field. It's another to do it so that you create at-bats for a DH, in Young, with a career .288/.321/.428 slash, or to get a 26-year-old fourth outfielder with 78 MLB appearances into the lineup.
It'd be one thing if the Tigers had a good DH. They don't. Victor Martinez is missing the year. As is, the Tigers are planning to put Fielder and Cabrera at the corners so that they can give the DH slot to hitters who aren't very good. There's something to be said for the fact that most players are reluctant to DH, and Cabrera and Fielder probably have their egos. There's also something to be said for the fact that players should do what their teams want them to do. If Cabrera doesn't want to DH, but if Cabrera DH'ing is in the best interests of the team, Cabrera should DH.
Anyway, we'll see how this goes, and for how long the Tigers keep it up. In fairness, while Sheehan talks about how Cabrera is too big for third base, Pablo Sandoval has an outstanding career UZR. Miguel Cabrera, though, doesn't. He has a bad career UZR at first, he has a bad career UZR at third, he has a bad career UZR in left field, and he has a bad career UZR in right field. So. Experimentation!
With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols moving to the American League, the Great National League First Baseman Club just got a whole lot more exclusive.
Pitchers in the National League are really good. Some of the best in the world! Pitchers in the American League are even better, and now Prince Fielder gets to face them 144 times in one season.
Jim Leyland sounds adamant about playing Miguel Cabrera every day, for nine full innings, at third base. But it's early and things might look a lot different next summer.
SI.com's Cliff Corcoran notes that plenty of great hitters have put on weight as they got older; almost every player (and non-player) does. And many of those great hitters just kept on hitting, from Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew to Frank Thomas and Jim Thome. But Prince Fielder, Corcoran notes, is different:
Those all-time greats had room to add weight as they aged. Fielder, like the group that included his father, does not. As a result of that difference, when Fielder begins to add weight in his thirties, as most athletes (and non-athletes) do, it could slow him down to such a degree that he's simply unable to compete at the major league level. That is the trend for players his size. They don't have declines, they just vanish because there's no room for them to get bigger or slower and continue to compete at the highest level. The gap between being a star player and out of baseball is tiny for players like Fielder compared to more athletic players who can age more gracefully.
I don't have a great deal to add, except that we're in uncharted territory here. And that I would like to have been a fly on the wall when Dave Dombrowski was trying to convince his owner that nine years is a really, really, really long time.
For all of the talk about the Dodgers not having pennies to put in their loafers, they've actually been one of the more active teams this offseason, signing several players to multi-year deals. And according to Jon Heyman, they wanted to make an even bigger splash:
The Dodgers were a surprise entrant in the sweepstakes, making a major push to sign the star slugger with an offer that guaranteed him seven years but provided a sweet four-year opt-out. And for a couple weeks, they looked like a real possibility for Prince.
The deal reportedly would have been for a $26 million annual salary for the first four years, with an opt-out clause after the fourth year that would have allowed Fielder to seek his fortune anew.
A seven-year deal with an opt-out clause is probably something closer to what was expected when the offseason started, and it looks like the Dodgers made a serious run at Fielder before the Tigers flipped on the ol' spit-take generator.
Also of note: You rarely heard about the Dodgers' involvement while it was happening. This is why the mystery team will destroy us all, people.
At our SB Nation Tigers site Bless You Boys, Kurt Mensching raises two key questions regarding Prince Fielder’s immense, uh, deal:
No. 1) The fact the total figure come in at $214 million and places Fielder’s take fourth overall in largest contracts ever handed out.
No 2) The fact that Fielder is a big boy, and those do not typically age well.
These should be valid concerns for any fan base, but essentially, Mensching says that Tigers fans shouldn’t, and don’t, care:
In the end, it’s a large deal, done by a team that is not afraid of large deals and one that does not like to play by the generally agreed upon rules of the pundits. Years from now, we’ll have to see how the team chooses to act. It’s already shown it can maneuver around as necessary. I mean, weren’t the Tigers supposed to sell off all their players in 2009 when the bankrupt city and bankrupt team collapsed into a heap? I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you that way, prognosticators.
Like it or not, the Central Divsion has a favorite for years to come — and it’s everyone’s feel-good Royals.
As a fan of the baseball team that plays in Detroit, that suits me fine. As it does plenty of other Tigers fans — and the team’s owner — too.
If the Tigers win a World Series or three in Fielder’s nine years there, the fan base will surely be quite content with the deal. If they don’t, though… things could get ugly.
Now, at last, the Tigers have officially announced this signing, via their official Twitter account, which you know is official because it is called OFFICIAL_TIGERS:
Tigers have agreed to terms on a nine-year contract with first baseman Prince Fielder. #tigers
Glad to know that we didn’t waste the last two days talking about something that wasn’t going to eventually be official!
Anyway, all of this will be presented to the world in a news conference Thursday afternoon, according to Fox Sports Detroit:
Watch the Prince Fielder press conference live at 2 pm on FOX Sports Detroit and streamed at http://FoxSportsDetroit.com #Tigers
That’s 2 p.m. Eastern time; do your own time-zone conversion.
For more on Prince and the Tigers, please visit our SB Nation Tigers site, Bless You Boys.
There were any number of reasons why nobody thought the Detroit Tigers were going to sign Prince Fielder, but chief among them was the simple fact that the Detroit Tigers already had a pretty good first baseman: Miguel Cabrera.
So when the Detroit Tigers did sign Prince Fielder -- or announce their agreement to sign him, anyway -- we immediately began to wonder what the Tigers would do with two first basemen. And we were somewhat nonplussed upon the news that management was/is seriously considering playing Cabrera at third base, where he's not played for even a moment since 2008. For good reason.
As the New York Times' Benjamin Hoffman notes, the Tigers' infield defense could be brutal:
The Tigers will now feature a first baseman whose listed weight is 275 pounds and a third baseman listed as 240 pounds. Fielder, who is 5 feet 11 inches, may be telling the truth, but the 6-4 Cabrera certainly appears heavier than that.
On defense, Fielder has always been a very good hitter. Using the advanced fielding metric of Ultimate Zone Rating, he has been below average as a first baseman in all but one of his full seasons.
The true butcher of the pair, however, is Cabrera. Already ill suited to the defensive rigors of first base, Cabrera will be returning to the position he manned, poorly, during his time with the Marlins.
Honestly, I still can't figure out what in hell the Tigers are doing. It would be one thing if Víctor Martínez were going to be around this season. But he's not, and the Tigers don't have a ready-made DH to fill Martinez's slot. So why not simply give that job to Cabrera or Fielder?
Well, I'm fairly sure the Tigers have promised Fielder plenty of work at first base. And they probably are leery of turning Cabrera into a full-time DH so early in his career (he's 28, just a year older than Fielder).
So why not let both of them play first base? While sharing the DH duties, too? This would serve the dual purpose of a) alleviating some of the strain from those BIG bodies, and b) keeping Cabrera the hell away from third base.
Granted, there is one other issue; if Cabrera doesn't play third base this year, it's even more difficult to send him to third base in 2013, when Martinez presumably returns to the lineup, along with his $13 million salary.
My guess? The Tigers wind up trading Martinez, and eating a big chunk of his contract. Which we'll simply add to the many millions by which the franchise is over-paying to feature Prince Fielder for nine years.
Nine years is a long time and $214 is a lot of millions. Will Prince Fielder's new contract with the Tigers someday take its place among other great financial disasters?
Dave Dombrowski is something of a wizard. He helped build up the farm system that allowed for the Expos of the early '90s. He brought the first World Series championship to the Florida Marlins. And under Dombrowski, the Tigers went from 119 losses to the World Series in three years.
He builds through the farm like a good general manager should, but there's another quality of his that's often overlooked: When an owner says to him, "Say, I'd like to spend all sorts of crazy money on free agents," Dombrowski thinks that's a swell idea.
Well, a lot of general managers would. Most of them, even. All right, so this isn't really about Dombrowski. According to Jim Bowden, he didn't really have a choice:
In successive years leading up to that World Series appearance, the Tigers overpaid and signed Boras clients Ivan Rodriguez (2004) and Magglio Ordonez (2005). Both were integral to the Tigers’ successful run and in the process Illitch and Boras fortified a solid rapport. With Fielder, Boras simply recognized an opportunity and went straight to Illitch.
What was your reaction to the Victor Martinez injury? Probably some mix of shock and horror. Scott Boras didn't run around his room making locomotive sounds, arm aloft in triumph, with steam coming out of his ears. But only because that's not possible for humans to do. It's not possible for Boras to do either. But like the super-agent that he is, he recognized the opportunity and pounced.
It's not surprising that Boras went straight to Ilitch. That's how $200 million deals happen.
Rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco joins a crop of maturing young Reds who could be the next dominating team in the NL Central.
Over at Bless You Boys, the home for all things Tigers at SB Nation, yesterday started off with a piece debunking those nascent Prince-Fielder-to-Detroit rumors, concluding with …
But it's fun to dream about Fielder, isn't it? I'd love to be wrong.
The comments in that piece are particularly amazing, moving from …
OTHER THAN THOSE REALITIES, it makes perfect sense…in a world with unicorns and popcorn trees, free candy for everyone, and Don Kelly never batting third, etc etc etc.
… to …
… in just over an hour. And what a trip to BYB reminds you is that there ain't a heckuva lot of Tigers fans talking about 2020 right now. The backend of the contract is what the rest of the baseball world is thinking of -- nine years, nine years, nine years -- but Tigers fans are thinking about, you know, Prince Fielder. Dingers. Prince Fielder hitting dingers. And I swear to god, autocorrect, if you change "dingers" to "singers" one more time …
Come on. This is Prince Fielder we're talking about. Dingers, baby. And a lot of them. If you're looking for symmetry, cosmic significance, or why this just feels right for Tigers fans, read this great piece by Kurt Mensching on how Cecil Fielder made him into a Tigers fan. Spoiler: Dingers.
Fifty home runs hadn’t been hit since 1977. No Tiger had hit the milestone since Hank Greenberg in 1938. But there was Cecil Fielder, stepping to the plate and you just knew he’d hit a home run. This, too, was the era before every game was televised. Some games were on TV, of course, but most of them were on the radio.
One thing you aren't reading a lot of in Tiger country: "nine years." One thing you are reading a lot of: "Holy crap, Prince Fielder is on the Tigers!" No matter what you think of the length of the deal or the total money, it's enough to make you jealous.
Prince Fielder is among the game's richest first basemen thanks to his new deal with the Tigers, but should he be?
Prince Fielder received a nine-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. What would that kind of contract have looked like if it were given to other sluggers before they turned 28?
You know you care. If you didn't care, you wouldn't be reading this. If you don't care and are still reading this, I don't know what your problem is but the problem is assuredly with you, and not this post. On we go!
Impact the first: welcome to third base eligibility, Miguel Cabrera! The last time Cabrera was a regular third baseman was 2007. The last time Cabrera got any playing time at all as a third baseman was 2008. He's not expected to be the Tigers' regular at the hot corner in 2012, but he should play there enough to gain eligibility in most leagues. That's third base eligibility for a guy with a three-year OPS of 1.005.
Impact the second: Prince Fielder's numbers are probably going to get worse. We're going to use handedness park factors from StatCorner, where 100 is average. Milwaukee has a lefty home run factor of 118, and an overall lefty factor of 100. That basically means Miller Park is about 18 percent more homer-friendly to lefties than the average stadium. Detroit has a lefty home run factor of 88, and an overall lefty factor of 97.
That's the sixth-lowest lefty home run factor in baseball. It's also tied for the fifth-lowest overall lefty factor in baseball. Fielder's shifting to a less friendly ballpark, and for whatever it's worth he's also shifting to what's still thought to be the superior league. Fielder's numbers should still be good, or great, but they should be a little lower.
Let's be honest: this is obvious. The Detroit Tigers are signing Prince Fielder to a nine-year contract worth $214 million. Prince Fielder is kind of fat. He's a first baseman. Prince Fielder is really good, but of course he's a short-term gain and a long-term risk. That's not very insightful.
Still, as obvious as that might be, somebody needs to go ahead and write it up at length, and that's what Dave Cameron did over at FanGraphs. We'll begin with the good:
If they were an 85-87 win team yesterday, they’re probably closer to an 89-91 win team today. The difference in expected playoff odds for an 85 win team and a 90 win team, even in a division with no obvious challenger to the throne, is enormous. So, it’s understandable that the Tigers decided to be extremely aggressive in their desire to put the best team that they possibly could on the field for the next few seasons. When you have two superstars in their primes, you want to maximize your chances of capturing a ring, and no available player gets the Tigers closer to a championship than Fielder does.
We'll follow with the bad:
The Tigers have basically borrowed from their future to pay for the present, and this deal is going to harm their ability to contend down the line. If Fielder ages well, he may not begin to be a real liability for three or four years. That’s the window the Tigers have essentially given themselves with this contract – win a title before 2015 before the cost of this deal becomes prohibitive to building a contending team around that contract.
The big conclusion is that, while Fielder will help, the Tigers probably would've been better off trying to sign Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson. Those players would've provided big upgrades while carrying less long-term risk. It's an open question as to whether Reyes and Wilson would've wanted to play for Detroit, and how much they would've cost, but at least in theory, it's hard to disagree with Dave. Fielder will help, but. (That's the whole thought.)
An interesting question: let's say Prince Fielder helps the Tigers win the World Series in 2012 or 2013. Let's say Prince Fielder goes on to become an absolute payroll anchor. Let's say that Prince Fielder ages poorly and that his salary gets in the way of the front office. Is he worth it? What is the long-term value of a championship? At what point does a player run out of goodwill and become a source of frustration? I don't know the answer, by the way.
The Detroit Tigers lost Victor Martinez. The Detroit Tigers added Prince Fielder. Terrific! And so simple. See, Martinez was a DH, so Fielder could just come and DH, and it's all really easy, at least for a year until Martinez comes back.
It won't be that easy. Here's the situation for now, according to Jason Beck:
Sounds like #Tigers will have a rotation going at corner infield spots, including Cabrera playing 3rd base on some days.
The Tigers have Prince Fielder locked up for a while. He's a first baseman. The Tigers have Miguel Cabrera locked up for a while. He's a first baseman. The Tigers have Brandon Inge locked up. He's a third baseman. There's also Don Kelly, who might factor somehow, and Delmon Young should probably be a DH, and...
It's honestly not that complicated, when you realize that Fielder and Cabrera are going to play every day. They're Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers will find room. But Cabrera will get time at the hot corner, and you'll want to pay close attention to how he does, since Martinez is under contract through 2014. A smooth adjustment would be a lot nicer than a less smooth and probable adjustment.
As a teenager, Miguel Cabrera used to be a shortstop. They pretty much all used to be shortstops. That always tickles me.
Newspapers and TV and the Internet are just so 20th Century. We rely on Twitter for our breaking news and our hard-hitting analysis!
Tuesday, after the surprising announcement of Prince’s signing with his dad’s former team, the elder Fielder said the signing "shocked" him, according to Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press, quoted in USA Today:
"That just shocked me," Cecil Fielder told MLB Radio on SiriusXM. "I just landed in New York… and I got that call — that’s crazy! He’s going to come full circle. You know, he’s been there in Detroit most of his young life, so I think he’ll be comfortable in that place. …
"I know Mr. (Mike) Ilitch is probably pretty excited, because he’s been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish."
The two Fielders have at times not been on speaking terms, but Cecil says that could be changing:
"We’re having a few chats. We’re doing a lot better than we were. Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point.
"I’m just happy for him. I think everybody was anxious for him to get signed."
For more on the Tigers, please visit our SB Nation site Bless You Boys.
Everyone laughed at C.C. Sabathia's opt-out clause in his seven-year deal, but in three years he turned that clause into even more money. Could Prince Fielder follow the same path with his reported contract with the Tigers? Buster Olney said maybe:
Let's wait for the fine print before assessing the Fielder deal. Key question is if/when Fielder can opt out? One year? Two?
Jayson Stark quoted a GM who was pretty sure:
One GM predicts length of Fielder's deal (9 years) will turn out to be irrelevant: "He'll have opted out by then anyway. Probably twice."
He might have even opted back in just to opt out again. Boras and all. But Jim Bowden claims to know the real answer:
Confirmed Prince Fielder has NO OPT OUT....9 yrs $214m
Prince Fielder will be with the Tigers until 2020. Unless he's just so good that Detroit will get all sorts of trade offers, or unless the Tigers eat tens of millions of dollars at some point, Prince Fielder ain't going anywhere. He'll be there for a long, long time.
Jamie Moyer will be 58 when the contract expires, for example. That might or might not be a surprising factoid depending on what you actually thought Moyer's age already was.
There's nothing better than a mystery team emptying a can of aerosol shock into the face of the baseball world. Well, not unless the mystery team comes equipped with a mystery strategy! Take it away, Jon Morosi:
Tigers had Miguel Cabrera get into shape to play third base, just in case, source says. Fielder 1B/DH, Cabrera 1B/3B/DH.
Let's see if I can get this right. Here's an approximation of a conversation that happened at some point early in the offseason:
Tigers: So we were thinking you should get in shape.
Miguel Cabrera: Wait, what? You mean because I'm a professional athlete in whom you've invested over $100 million? Sez you.
Tigers: Don't be silly. We just need you to get in shape in case we spend $200 million on someone who plays your position.
Miguel Cabrera: /works on tummy crunches obediently
Tigers view third base as a better alternate position for Miguel Cabrera than left field, source says.
His source is probably MLB.tv, which is the source that fed me the same information. It looks like the Tigers will have some interesting decisions to make. The good news is that they'll have a looooooooooooong time to figure it out.
Remember how adorable it seemed when Scott Boras overplayed his hand? When it looked like Prince Fielder just might settle for a one-year deal, then head out onto the market and try again, that plucky soul? Turns out that, yes, Scott Boras is amazing. An injury to Victor Martinez turned into Prince Fielder for a decade.
Well, less than a decade. Nine years, to be precise. What that calls for is a list of players who have signed for eight years or more, with the help of Fox Sports:
1. Todd Helton (11 years, $151.5 million, Rockies)
2. Albert Pujols (10 years, $254 million, Angels)
3. Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $242 million Rangers, and then again for $275+ million with the Yankees)
4. Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million, Yankees)
5. Troy Tulowitzki (10 years, $157.75 million, Rockies)
6. Ryan Braun (10 years, $145.5 million, Brewers)
7. Dave Winfield (10 years $23 million, Yankees)
8. Wayne Garland (10 years, $2.3 million, Indians)
9. Ken Griffey, Jr. (9 years, $116.5 million, Reds)
10. Joe Mauer (8 years, $184 million, Twins)
11. Mark Teixeira (8 years, $180 million, Yankees)
12. Adrian Gonzalez (8 years, $160.3 million, Red Sox)
13. Manny Ramirez (8 years, $160 million, Red Sox)
14. Matt Kemp (8 years, $160 million, Dodgers)
15. Miguel Cabrera (8 years, $152.3 million, Tigers)
16. Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million, Cubs)
17. Mike Hampton (8 years, $121 million, Rockies)
18. Scott Rolen (8 years, $90 million, Cardinals)
Just one more eight-year deal to go, Tigers, and you can catch those wacky Rockies! The Prince Fielder deal is stunning -- absolutely stunning. And when you think of the contracts up there that actually looked good after the fifth or sixth year, it's even more stunning.
A little while back, reports emerged that Detroit Tigers DH Victor Martinez tore his ACL and could miss the entire 2012 season. There was a lot of talk about what the Tigers might need to do to replace him. Most of the talk focused on short-term additions, since Martinez is still under contract in 2013. Little of the talk focused on Prince Fielder. Well, funny thing about Prince Fielder. Jon Heyman:
price [sic] deal is $214M, 9 yrs. #tigers
. Nationals. Nationals. . Nationals. Rangers. Nationals. Tigers. In the end, it's the Tigers, as they're replacing Victor Martinez with pretty much the biggest addition possible. This is both the truth and a fat joke.
We'll obviously have plenty more later on. For now, we all once again get to apologize to Scott Boras for ever doubting his ability as the world's foremost superagent. Scott Boras waited until the end of January, and he got Prince Fielder a nine-year contract with a championship-level team. Scott Boras wins. Scott Boras almost always wins. Scott Boras is amazing.
And Prince Fielder is really good. For now.
This is all pending a physical. Several people have confirmed the report.
From the USA Today, which adds a new wrinkle to the hot-stove nomenclature:
The Texas Rangers believe they are out out of the bidding for free-agent slugger Prince Fielder, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, but not authorized to speak publicly because of the ongoing negotiations.
Look, USA Today, we're all baseball fans here. You don't need to spell out a PWKOTTBNATSPBOTON for us. Just write "according to a PWKOTTBNATSPBOTON" and move on.
It's an open question just how interested the Rangers were in the first place. While Prince Fielder would certainly make a good lineup even better, the Rangers' interest probably had more do to with the Yu Darvish negotiations. Making the Darvish camp think that they had another way to spend $100 million was almost certainly the ultimate goal.
But with Darvish secured, the Rangers likely still sniffed around to see if Fielder was interested in a one-year deal at a hitter's paradise, where he could enter the next offseason with even shinier numbers than he currently has. As is, the Rangers are supposedly out.
That leaves the Nationals as the likely front-runners, with the Orioles also interested. There are some rumblings that the Dodgers could be the question-mark bedecked mystery team lurking in the bushes, and there would be a precedent for a new owner signing a big-ticket deal before the sale is complete -- it's how the Giants got Barry Bonds with a new ownership group after the '92 season. But Ken Rosenthal writes that the Fielder derby is "nearing its conclusion," which isn't something that could be written about the Dodgers' ownership situation, so that seems like a longshot.
The Baltimore Orioles might be interested in Prince Fielder. Does this make any sense to anyone?
Sounds pretty specific, right? A done deal?
Not so fast, tweeted Jim Bowden of ESPN/XM Radio:
The Nationals continue to work on a deal for Prince Fielder…BUT THERE IS NO DEAL repeat NO DEAL as of tonight according to sources
The non-deal was also noted on Twitter by Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt:
A very good source just told me there is no deal in place between Nationals and Fielder. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point.
Source: Orioles trying to squeeze $$$ out of Peter Angelos for Prince Fielder. Heard Showalter met with owner late last week & asked for $
That would be a big splash for the Orioles, especially since they share a market with the Nats. As always, we await further developments.
I adapted that headline from the actual headline of Tyler Kepner's excellent reportage:
Fielder’s Options Are as Narrow as His Talent is Vast
Now, I’m sorry to keep hammering on this point but I was somewhat astounded that Kepner never mentions in his (again) excellent piece that Fielder himself is vast. I just don’t think any analysis of Fielder’s continuing availability that doesn’t at least mention the possibility that Fielder’s personal dimensions are a concern for teams is incomplete.*
* Go ahead, try to diagram that sentence.
Kepner got Scott Boras — Fielder’s agent — on the phone yesterday, and of course Boras doesn’t disappoint. Might be the best talker since Orson Welles …
"It’s a rare moment of opportunity for teams, because there are normally eight clubs or so that are pursuing a young superstar player," Boras said. "This is an opportunity for clubs that are outside of those eight to bring that type of player to their city."
With spring training about a month away, and most teams having finished the bulk of their off-season work, time would seem to be running out. Boras has found deals worth more than $100 million in January — for Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday — but never this late.
"This is a negotiation that is very personal to a star player who’s a slugger," Boras said. "The traditional negotiation periods are not relevant to these types of players, and the timing of the negotiations should not create any inferences, positive or negative, about the status or value of Prince Fielder."
Yeah, whatever. We promise to not infer anything about Prince Fielder’s star value. Which is of course considerable. As are his pants!*
* see what I did there?
A month from now, Prince Fielder is going to be an exceptionally wealthy young man. But maybe not as wealthy as he thought.
Maybe Prince Fielder's still looking for work because teams just can't figure out where his career's going to go from here.
Earlier we had scuttlebutt and whispers about Prince Fielder's travel itinerary, with the free-agent first baseman meeting with the Texas Rangers, ostensibly to explore the possibility of Fielder hitting 832 home runs in Rangers Ballpark for the next few years.
Combined with a Yu Darvish contract, a Fielder move would be quite the forceful response to the Angels' free-agent duo of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Hold on, though. Fielder could be the Rangers' backup plan instead of another high-priced addition. From Jeff Wilson:
Source confirms #Rangers meeting with Prince Fielder, but suggests the first baseman is Plan B if Yu Darvish doesn't sign.
This would make a bit more sense -- that Fielder is more of a way for the Rangers to get negotiating leverage on Darvish than a serious interest in committing $250 million to two players this off season. But Fielder-to-the-Rangers makes a ton of sense, and Fielder gets something out of this too: more leverage in his negotiations with the Nationals and Mariners.
If such negotiations are going on. Which they might be. Or not. We'll just sit and wait for this stuff to resolve itself.
This Prince Fielder crap has been going on way too long without any meaningful story development. The Nationals are the favorites. The Nationals aren't the favorites. The Nationals are the favorites. The Nationals aren't the favorites. The Nationals are the favorites. The Nationals aren't the favorites. The Mariners are observing the sweepstakes from a distance through a pair of binoculars. We've all been dying for some movement.
Movement! Here's Bob Nightengale:
Breaking: The Texas #Rangers are meeting today with Prince Fielder at Dallas-area hotel. Stay tuned
That's all we know. The Rangers could want to tell Fielder literally anything. They might not want to tell Fielder anything at all. They might just want to have him in a room. People do weird things. Especially people with money.
But this seems meaningful. The Rangers are currently trying to negotiate a contract with Yu Darvish. Some have speculated that, if the Rangers sign Darvish, they won't be able to sign Fielder. The Rangers haven't even openly expressed interest in Fielder at any point anyway. But the Rangers make a ton of sense for Fielder on paper, and if they have the money, well, there you go. Fielder could give the Rangers one hell of a boost.
As Nightengale says, stay tuned. It's about time for the Fielder sweepstakes to escalate. This could be the escalation.
Craig posits that there’s some posturing going on:
This just underscores what I was saying yesterday about how that report that there is a “99% chance that the Nats won’t sign Fielder” is all about posturing. The Lerners likely knew they were meeting with Boras last night. Before that meeting they wanted to float some negativity regarding their interest and give themselves some sort of negotiating advantage, so someone tells someone else that they’re not all that interested, frankly.
The number of teams interested in Fielder dropped when the Cubs traded for a young player who is presumably their first baseman of the future (Anthony Rizzo). The Mariners and Rangers, earlier linked to Fielder, haven’t been mentioned recently in connection with the former Brewers first baseman.
Scott Boras could be in a position of not being able to get a team to bid against itself. Grant Brisbee wonders if Boras has lost his magic touch.
It’s a valid question, becoming more so the closer we get to spring training with Fielder unsigned.
We're well into the new year, now, and some people are wondering why Prince Fielder is still a free agent. It's really not a mystery.
With the Cubs trading for a young first baseman, they would seem to have less need than ever for the last great free agent on the market.
It's January 5 and Prince Fielder is still a free agent. Prince Fielder is 27 years old and owns a career 143 OPS+. Prince Fielder, naturally, is a popular topic of conversation - especially lately, with word that the Washington Nationals might be the favorites in the sweepstakes despite having expressed support for Adam LaRoche. The Nationals have seemed like a fit for a while, and could blow away the competition with a Nationals-like offer. It feels weird to characterize a huge offer as being "Nationals-like" just based on the whole Jayson Werth thing, but you knew what I meant when you read it. The Nationals aren't afraid to spend big.
Just how good of a fit is Fielder with the Nationals, though? Steve Slowinski of FanGraphs gives it a look. You should read the whole thing, but a key part:
[Michael] Morse could play in left field for the Nationals next season, but he won’t be able to stay there for long; Bryce Harper is rising through the minors like a shot, and he could easily reach the majors by the end of 2012. Unless the Nationals think Harper can play centerfield — and all indications are that they want him in a corner outfield spot — then by signing Fielder, the Nationals may be making not one, but two players on their roster obsolete.
Morse has batted 923 times with the Nationals, posting a 139 OPS+. Slowinski asserts that, by adding Fielder, the Nationals would not only force LaRoche out of the picture - they'd cut into Morse's playing time. A little in 2012, and a lot in 2013 (and beyond). Given that Morse has been productive, this is not good.
And Slowinski's right. On the other hand, the Nationals can't just assume that Harper will arrive quickly and immediately succeed. Additionally, in the event of a roster crunch, Morse would have trade value. The Nationals could try to exchange him for a need, were they to end up with nowhere to play him.
So it's not a huge stumbling block. It's just something for the Nationals to think about. Because the idea of signing Prince Fielder isn't already complicated enough.
Prince Fielder has his suitors, but which team does he make the most sense for?
Adam LaRoche said the #Nats didn't promise him that he would be the starting 1B in 2012.
Asked point-blank if Adam LaRoche was set to be the Nationals' first baseman for 2012, Rizzo said: "That's correct." Throwing, for the time being, some cold water on the Prince Fielder rumors that seem to insist on attaching themselves to Washington.
"As far as are we going to dab our toe in (the Prince Fielder) water," Rizzo said, "Those are decisions we make early on in that process and we've more or less decided that Adam is going to be our first baseman. Unless something extraordinary and out of the ordinary happened, that's how we're going to go into spring training."
Okay. Adam LaRoche will be the Nationals' first baseman in 2012! Except that, Monday, Tom Haudricourt passed along some talk that the Nationals are considered the favorites to sign Prince Fielder. And, backing that up to some degree, we get this report, from Bill Ladson:
The Nationals are in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, according to a baseball source, and ownership recently visited with Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, in the nation's capital.
I believe it's that meeting that's new news. We've heard that Boras has targeted owners, instead of front offices, and we've heard that Boras has had some meetings, but here we have a report directly connecting Boras and the Nationals. So what does this mean? Following are some possibilities:
Happy to clear things up by not at all clearing things up. The truth of the matter is that, if there's hard evidence, it hasn't been brought to light. The Nationals are thought to be the favorites because they make sense, they have money, and they aren't afraid of Scott Boras. But we don't know that the Nationals are the favorites. From lower in Ladson's article:
When asked about Fielder being linked to the Nationals, another source said: "I think Boras is using [the Nationals] to drive up the price with interested teams."
I totally believe that the Nationals could be the favorite in the Fielder sweepstakes. I totally believe that Boras could be using that Nationals in the Fielder sweepstakes, specifically because it's so easy to believe the Nationals could be the favorites in the Fielder sweepstakes. The more you examine, the less you know.
Are the Nationals hot in pursuit of Prince Fielder? Yes, no, maybe. Many people believe yes, which isn't worth nothing. It also isn't worth everything. With Scott Boras, it's usually best not to pretend to know anything until there's pen on paper.
Tom Hadricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel with an update on the Prince Fielder free-agent drama:
An MLB official told me over the weekend that word is spreading in the industry that the Washington Nationals have emerged as a favorite to sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
Now, "a favorite" is much different than "the favorite" -- there's a lot of meaning in those pesky articles. But just a little later in his post, Hadricourt covers his bases:
I had pegged the Mariners, Rangers and Cubs as the leading candidates to sign Fielder at the start of the off-season but now am told the Nationals are the favorite to sign him.
With Fielder, the Nationals would have one of the best lineups in the National League. They would also likely have Mike Morse in left with Jayson Werth moving to center field whenever Bryce Harper is ready. That's ... less desirable.
But the Nationals have been in on seemingly every free agent to some degree, and after missing out on C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, they still have some money to spend. And Fielder would make an even bigger splash than Werth did last year. Part of that is because of physics/displacement, but it's also because Fielder is one of the best hitters in baseball.
The Cubs are still said to be in, as are the Mariners, Rangers, and even Orioles. And don't count out those wacky Marlins just yet. As of right now, though, the Nationals are reportedly in the lead for Prince Fielder's services.
Prince Fielder isn't the first big-time free agent to wait until after the New Year to sign a hefty contract.
I love Scott Boras. Seriously. Can you imagine how boring the world would be without him? Scott Boras is the Joseph Smith, the L. Ron Hubbard, the Charles Ponzi, the Kevin Trudeau, the Sergeant Bilko, the Harry Mudd of Our National Pastime. There's never been anyone quite like him, and might never be again. Scott Boras is more interesting than Arliss Michaels and Jerry Maguire and Ari Gold all rolled into one.
Scott Boras is Prince Fielder's agent. Fielder is the only superstar who's still available on the open market right now. All the rest have signed. All the rest signed weeks ago. So why is Fielder still available?
Because he's just that incredible. He transcends hitting (let alone fielding, and running). Fielder is so incredible that he, among all the other free agents available this winter, demands the attention of ownership.
Really. Here's just a sampling of Boras's explanation, via Ken Rosenthal:
Boras described the process of educating owners on Fielder — and introducing Fielder to those owners — as "time-consuming."
"You absolutely see two factors with superstar sluggers — they bring retention value and attraction value. Retention value — look at (Rickie) Weeks, (Corey) Hart, (Yovani) Gallardo. They all stayed in Milwaukee. When you have that guy in the middle of the lineup, it’s, ‘Oh yeah, I want to play with him.’ Jeff Kent won an MVP hitting behind Barry Bonds. Ryan Braun won an MVP hitting in front of Fielder. That’s the modality.
". . . (A player like Fielder) gets you the (local) TV contract, he gets you a higher franchise value, your attendance goes up . . . These players pay for themselves. They make you a lot of money. Owners understand that. They reach out to you. Prince is not in any way a normal free agent. Owners will move players off their teams that already occupy positions to get him. Even though they have a player at the position, this is the move to bring in a franchise player."
"The man in the batter’s box and the man in the locker room are two very different people. The man in the locker room is an ambassador, a very sincere and understanding man. In the batter’s box, he is out there, literally uncaged.
"Having that light switch is a very special thing for an athlete. To be able to control your emotions, do all the things required of a franchise player . . . of all the superstars I’ve been around, psychologically he’s the best that I have seen."
Let's be clear about this ... Boras is arguing that Fielder, even beyond his considerable value on the field, as a hitter -- is also valuable because his presence a) makes it easier to keep other players, and b) leads to an increase in attendance and (presumably) TV ratings, and thus increases revenues in the long term.
How much are those things worth? I don't know if even Scott Boras would attempt to come up with a number. Better, perhaps, to let prospective suitors use their imaginations. Prince Fielder was worth roughly $25 million on the field last season. The other stuff is worth ... what? Maybe $5 million per season? That would get Fielder to $30 million, a figure I'm sure would thrill both agent and client.
Fielder probably isn't going to actually make that much, but it's really not so difficult to argue that he was worth that much in 2011. Especially if you factor in the Brewers' postseason run.
Here is Boras's problem, though: Fielder has not been consistent.
Here are his values -- as usual, according to FanGraphs -- over the last four seasons:
His average value over the last five seasons: $20 million.
Which remains a considerable sum. Toss in the "retention and attraction" value, and maybe you can push the big slugger's value to $25 million per season. Which is probably Boras's actual target. Or something close.
I still don't think he'll get that much. Not with that body. My guess: six years and $122 million. Give or take a year and $20 million. But who's counting, anyway.
Fielder should be Cubs' player to lose
The article is more of an opinion piece from Rosenthal, explaining why the Cubs make all sorts of sense for the Cubs -- and he's right. Other than the Rangers and Blue Jays, it's hard to see a better match between Fielder and teams that have both money and an open spot. The Cubs lost 91 games last year, but with Albert Pujols gone and Fielder likely to leave the Brewers, the balance of power isn't likely to need a decade to shift. Fielder will be around for a while.
But, hold on, Dale Sveum is the new Cubs manager, and this is all news to him:
Sveum on Prince and #Cubs: "At this point I think it's a lot of media talking more than us doing anything. We haven't had any talks."
I'm not sure if it's more amusing or sad that I'd probably believe a Rosenthal hunch before I believed a manager, but it's one person's job to get the scoop and another's to manage a group of 25 baseball players. Still, Sveum probably has some idea of how his team is managing the offseason, and as of right now, the Cubs are tentatively starting Bryan LaHair at first base. They could also explore a trade for Gaby Sanchez after the Marlins sign Fielder.
The Boras Corporation has created a 73-page binder to extol the virtues of Prince Fielder to prospective teams. What sorts of things are in there?
Prince Fielder's the best free agent left, but darned if it's not really hard to figure out where he's going to sign, and for what kind of contract.
The Angels just signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Thinking that the Rangers probably aren't going to counter with Nick Punto.
Albert Pujols hasn't yet signed with the St. Louis Cardinals or anybody else, but what we know about the Pujols negotiations is that the Miami Marlins are out. They made their push Tuesday, and it didn't work, so they were removed from the running. Immediately after word spread that the Marlins were out on Pujols, there were rumors that they were turning their attention to Prince Fielder. You know - that other free agent first baseman who is amazing.
But! Here we have Clark Spencer and Joe Capozzi. Spencer is the Marlins beat writer for the Miami Herald. Capozzi is the Marlins beat writer for the Palm Beach Post. It stands to reason that Spencer and Capozzi probably know about the Marlins' plans better than most. And:
Beat writers have been wrong before, obviously, but this certainly sounds definitive. No sources. No whispers. Just flat-out declarations.
Surely Scott Boras wouldn't just use the Marlins' name to try to drive up the price for his most-prized free agent, would he?
The Marlins have signed Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. They're working on C.J. Wilson. Prince Fielder? It doesn't look like the Marlins are chasing Prince Fielder. Even though to chase Prince Fielder would be [deleted, fat joke]
The Miami Marlins are looking to make a splash in free agency. And by "splash", I mean they're flailing around the Winter Meetings like a methed-out manatee having a seizure, possibly after staring at their own logo, and I mean that in the best way possible. After signing Jose Reyes to a huge six-year contract, the Marlins have been aggressively courting all-time great Albert Pujols, forcing the St. Louis Cardinals to improve the offer that they were adamantly refusing to improve.
Now the scuttlebutt is that the Cardinals are likely to re-sign their franchise icon, leaving the Marlins without another splash to make. At least for the next few minutes. Jon Heyman suggests that the Marlins have already moved on to another big splash, Prince Fielder:
marlins already in pursuit of prince. Signs indicate cards likely to get pujols
The Marlins are looking to commit what was a decade's worth of payroll for them over the last two years, and while they were hoping to do so with Pujols, it's not like Fielder is a bad fallback option. He still has the star power that Miami is craving, he's younger, and he's likely cheaper.
But if the Marlins are already looking into Fielder, it's probably a sign that Pujols is returning to the Cardinals. Or it could be a strategic gambit to let Pujols know that they're moving on, which will force Pujols to panic. It could be anything! I'm sure there won't be conflicting reports on Twitter in the next five minutes to let us know which one it is.
It's really difficult to figure out the Prince Fielder market right now. The Washington Nationals looked like a player, but they've indicated otherwise. The Texas Rangers looked like a player, but they've indicated otherwise. The Toronto Blue Jays looked like a player, but they've indicated otherwise. And so on. The Seattle Mariners are in there, and the Baltimore Orioles are kind of in there, and a few other teams are probably in there, but it doesn't look like the Milwaukee Brewers are among them:
Brewers indicating to others they are pretty much out on Prince Fielder, and are moving on.
A few days ago, Buster Olney reported that the Brewers were reluctant to go beyond six years and $120 million. So this means one of two things: either Fielder's price is bigger than that now, or the Brewers don't want to wait around for Fielder to make his decision, because this process could drag on for a while.
So it looks like Fielder will indeed be searching for a new home. And I haven't the foggiest idea of where that's going to be.
Prince Fielder is a free agent, and while he doesn't have fellow free agent Albert Pujols' track record of extraordinary success, he is younger and appealing to a greater number of teams. So, this offseason, Prince Fielder is going to cash in.
With whom will he cash in, though? That's the big question. And on that note, Adam Kilgore shares some somewhat surprising news:
If the Nationals do make another splashy move, it likely would not come at first base. Though the Nationals have been connected through reports with slugging free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, people familiar with the team’s plans said they do not plan on targeting a high-profile first baseman.
I and others considered the Nationals a good bet to throw a few suitcases of money in Fielder's direction, so while this report doesn't guarantee that they won't do that, it does seem like the Nationals' priority is landing Mark Buehrle or C.J. Wilson instead. That's one potential big spender out of the Fielder sweepstakes.
Reports a couple weeks ago suggested that the Rangers aren't too keen on spending on Fielder, either, so while the Rangers could always change their mind, Scott Boras was probably hoping for a better landscape of suitors.
Where will Prince Fielder end up, and how much will he make?
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