During this year, I have discussed the idea of Prince Fielder to Baltimore with 17 different Baseball Analysts. Each time I have asked a question the variation of, “The O’s offered Teixeira 7 years $145M two winters ago. Where do you see Fielder signing, and what type of contract do you ultimately see him receiving? What is the max contract you would advocate Baltimore offering?”
Here are the compiled responses:
Mark Healey, Baseball Digest: “Zero. What difference would Mark Teixeira have made on this year’s club? The same Fielder would make on this club in the next two years. Zero, which is why the contract offer shouldn’t be made.”
Peter Schiller, Baseball Reflections: “Fielder would be a good option for the O’s, but I wouldn’t offer him more than what Gold Glove players like Teixiera & Adrian Gonzales are making. 7 years seems like what it will take, but then again maybe they could go with less money per year & add an 8th year (taking a chance on his age 36 season). That could win them this big fish!”
Brandon Warne, FanGraphs: “I’ll cut to the chase: It wouldn’t be an offer that Fielder would consider. Probably something like five years, and maybe $20-22 million a season. I’m not a fan of longer deals than that, especially with a guy who may not age well.”
Brittany Ghiroli, MLB.com: “I think when all is said and done Fielder’s deal will be similar to what Teixeira’s was, maybe a little closer to the $150M range. Whether the Orioles are willing to make that kind of long-term financial commitment, and outbid everyone else, is another story.”
Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus: “I have no idea where Fielder is going to end up, but the team that lands him is going to pay a Teixeira-like price for his services. He’s not the defensive player Tex is, but the thunder in his bat can stand with anyone in the league. Baltimore should be in the running.”
Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs / Beyond the Boxscore: “To start at the end: I see Chicago being more likely than Baltimore. I guess it depends on what happens with Pujols. I like Prince a lot, but while he probably will end up getting 6/140 or more somewhere, it shouldn’t be Baltimore. As you know, rebuilding, even when done right, doesn’t always turn out right, and by the time this next phase might be “ready” Fielder will probably be on the decline (especially given his ‘conditioning’), and quite possibly an albatross. In fact, any team that gives him 6 years is probably looking at being stuck with a big, ugly contract the last 2-3 seasons of it. The Orioles aren’t in a position to take on that likely burden.”
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: “I would offer Fielder six years and $145 million in a heartbeat, and then drop dead if he signs it. Look, if he’s willing to sign a contact that low, he’ll stay in Milwaukee. Fielder will get at least $190 million over eight years, if not $200 million. He will definitely get more than the $180 million Teixeira received from New York. That being said, I would still bid on Fielder. He’s a tremendous asset on the field and in the clubhouse. I would think the biggest bidders on Fielder will be the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. But if he signed for less than $180 million, let alone $150 million, I’ll buy you and your staff steak dinners.”
David Pinto, Baseball Musings / Baseball Analytics: “Fielder should get between $25 and $30 million a year. And yes, the O’s should sign him if they ever want to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox.”
Satchel Price, Beyond the Boxscore: “Six years and $145 million is probably the high end of what I’d offer Fielder. He’s clearly an elite talent right now, but you have to be worried about how he’s going to age. I’d definitely rather give him a larger salary over a shorter term; there’s no way I’d give him seven or eight years like Mark Teixeira got. If he’d accept something like 5 years, $125 million, I think that’d be a no-brainer for Baltimore, but they really shouldn’t go beyond six years. Honestly, part of me expects Fielder to end up in Chicago; the Cubs are going to want to make a splash this winter given how horrible their season has gone, and outside of Pujols, Reyes and maybe Sabathia, nobody from this winter’s free agent class qualifies as a splash more than Fielder.”
Bob Harkins, NBC Sports / Hardball Talk: “I understand the temptation, but I don’t think the Orioles should be in the market for any high-priced free agents. They have too many holes, and one big bat, or one big arm is not going to turn them into a winner. They need to spread their resources around to increase their talent levels across the board, both in the majors and the minors. Handing a big contract to Prince Fielder isn’t going to fix things.”
Jonathan Mitchell, MLB Dirt: “I would love to see Baltimore offer Fielder big money. That is the type of signing I think a team like Baltimore should be eyeing. They build from within with young, cheap talent, and then pounce on the big thunder with the money they do have to spend. They have over $25 committed to Derek Lee, Vlad, Kevin Gregg, and Mike Gonzalez and they could have Fielder for a little over $24M. It would constitute a large chunk of the budget but they did had a 93.5M budget in 2007 and if they believe in contending in 2012 then I see no reason why they would not bump up the budget. I do see the Cubs being players as well as Brewers and possibly the Giants as a sleeper team.”
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune: “I’d absolutely give Fielder crazy money, and not worry about (his) weight. That was a concern coming out of high school, as you might remember, and so far it hasn’t kept him from being one of the three or four best first basemen/sluggers in the game. The Angels will be aggressively pursuing hitting this off-season, and (hide your eyes) I don’t rule out the Yankees should they lose in the first round or to Boston in the ALCS. The Cubs are a wild card but I haven’t seen any indications that owner Tom Ricketts has this healthy of an appetite. They might talk themselves into keeping Carlos Pena and using their resources to pursue pitching.”
JD Sussman, Bullpen Banter / Beyond the Boxscore: “Prince Fielder is a much better athlete then given credit for. I’m not sure how he ends up aging but I’d suspect it’ll be better than what some people will predict. I’d suspect the O’s will be in the race for him, but the Cardinals will not be.”
Scott Miller, CBS Sports: “Because of those weight concerns, Fielder is a better buy in the AL than in the NL because you’ve got either 1B or the DH to slot him into. The way this guy has hit over his career, and given what Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira have gotten, I think 6 yrs and $145 million would be solid for Baltimore. Personally, I’d invest that money in Fielder before Pujols because he’s four years younger than Pujols and I think he’s got more of his prime in front of him. Plus, he’s a far better clubhouse presence than Pujols.”
Dan Szymborski, ESPN / Baseball Think Factory: “I expect Fielder to sign something in the neighborhood of 6 years, $140 million. 6 at $120 seems to me unlikely to land Fielder and I don’t think the Orioles are at a place yet where they should. When you sign a big-name free agent, you essentially take the quality of the front years as the counterweight to the risk of the back years and I do not think the O’s are in a place yet where that front-year quality will do more than make them an 83-84 win team. There are just too many holes on the roster.”
Danny Knobler, CBS Sports: “It’s very hard to know exactly what it will take on any free-agent signing. All the estimates on Werth/Crawford last winter ended up being too low. The Teixeira offer isn’t really relevant, because the Orioles were in a much different position then (and so was he). They didn’t have a team that was close to being ready to win. Plenty of other teams could be interested in Prince, including the ones you mentioned, and also the Nationals and Angels. Could be others, too.”
Jayson Stark, ESPN: “Prince will take the most money. Period. And right now what I’m hearing is, Boras wants eight years at $25 million a year, for a $200-million package. I can’t see him getting eight. But I can see somebody giving him the Teixeira deal. I’d never do that if I were an NL team. But as an AL team, with the option to move him to DH, I’d think long and hard about it if I were the Orioles. He’s as good a fit in that park, with that team, as anywhere.”
Beyond my interviews, ESPN’s Jim Bowden wrote that Baltimore could make the most sense. SI’s Jon Heyman wrote (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201…?sct=mlb_wr_a1) that the average predicted contract for Fielder between himself, two Agents, and two GM’s was 6yrs $145M. Heyman has also written that Baltimore could make the most sense for the slugging 1st baseman.
My personal opinion is that prior to determining if the O’s should consider pursuing Fielder, the Front Office situation has to be addressed. With whomever is in charge, I want to see an organization that is committed to improving both on the field at the Major League level, and improving the internal infrastructure (Amateur Scouting, International Scouting, and Player Development).
I think under President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, the O’s started laying the foundation of a rebuilding effort, but stopped building the house halfway through the job. If you look at the Non-waiver Trading Deadline this year, the O’s made the decisions to retain and extend Hardy, and received back the package of Davis and Hunter from Texas for Uehara (as opposed to the younger prospects the Padres received for Mike Adams from the Rangers). I took those moves as signs that Baltimore had made an internal decision they are going to try and win with the core of players that currently exists on the roster. If that is accurate, and you are not going to continue the rebuild, than you need to obtain the best difference making talent you can.
Fielder represents difference making talent at a position of need. You can certainly make the case for him. You can certainly make the case that obtaining him would not be the best use of resources. What the O’s should know if they go after Fielder, is that even if he were to be obtained, he alone would not be enough. If you are going to go after him, make sure you do everything you can to get him. If you obtain him, make sure you are committed as an organization for making the other moves necessary to make his signing worthwhile.