The Inevitable Prince Fielder Rumors

Dave · September 27, 2010 at 9:03 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Figure we might as well get this out of the way early – yesterday, Prince Fielder played what is probably his final home game in Milwaukee. The Brewers are pretty likely to move their first baseman this winter, as he only has one year left before he becomes a free agent, and Scott Boras is looking for a huge paycheck for the slugger, having already rejected an offer reported to be worth $100 million over five years. Fielder won’t exactly be a low cost bargain next year, either, as his final arbitration payout will probably come in a little north of $15 million for 2011. Given his cost and the fact that he’s going to sign elsewhere in a year, the Brewers pretty much have to shop him this winter.

And so, inevitably, he’ll be linked to the Mariners. Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder when he was the Brewers scouting director, so there’s history between the two. The Mariners will obviously be in the market for some offense this winter, and Fielder will be one of the best hitters available. They have an opening at DH, and he could even provide some insurance at first base in case Justin Smoak gets injured or fails to pan out. His left-handed power would play well in Safeco, and he’d give the team a legitimate “big bat” that the traditional fan base has been craving for several years. There are enough reasons to think it makes sense to get the rumor mill churning, and churn it will this winter.

However, there are quite a few reasons it doesn’t make sense, either, and we need to keep those in mind when we read the speculation that will come over the next month or two.

The obvious problem is cost. At $15+ million for 2011, the Mariners might not even have room in the budget to bring him in. If they expanded the budget a bit (not a given by any stretch of the imagination), traded David Aardsma, and filled out the roster with league minimum guys, they might be able to make it work, but even then, it would be tight. He’d have to be the only significant salary addition the club made all winter, and they might have to shed some money beyond just Aardsma to make it work. Given that guys like Jack Wilson and Chone Figgins won’t be easy to move, that’s a pretty big challenge.

Beyond just next year, however, there’s the issue with Fielder’s asking price and his actual value. Yes, he’s a good hitter, but he’s not a legitimate superstar that is worthy of the contract that he’s asking for. He’s basically Matt Holliday without any defensive value or baserunning skills, more of a +4 win player than one of the game’s elite performers. The rejection of a 5/100 offer when he was 2 years away from free agency shows that they’re not interested in giving out any kinds of discounts. Boras has his eye on Ryan Howard’s ridiculous 5 year, $125 million contract, and will likely aim to come out above that, given that Fielder is the same kind of player, only younger.

He’s just not worth that kind of money. There’s no way the Mariners should be interested in paying $20+ million a year for Fielder in 2012 and beyond, especially as he’s likely to end up as a DH sooner than later, and guys with his body type have traditionally aged poorly. If Boras is really set on getting that kind of money for his client, teams in the market to trade for him this winter will almost certainly have to see him as a one year rental. And the Mariners just shouldn’t be making that kind of short term move.

Fielder would make the team better, but by himself, he’s not nearly enough. While the organization could use a bat like Prince Fielder in the line-up, they can’t afford to put all their eggs in his overweight basket, especially considering how much money he’ll want after next year. There will be other, more cost effective ways for the Mariners to bring in a DH this winter. Don’t just assume that it’s a fit just because Jack Z drafted him.

Comments

43 Responses to “The Inevitable Prince Fielder Rumors”

  1. lalo on September 27th, 2010 9:27 am

    I agree, and I prefer Dunn over Fielder, less money, equal power, awful defense, and no prospects in return. Go Jack…

  2. Typical Idiot Fan on September 27th, 2010 9:31 am

    Yes… but… if we could get him for a Cliff Lee type trade deal (ours to Philly), wouldn’t it be slightly worthwhile even for the prospect of moving him again if needed or for his undoubtedly Type A free agency status at the end of 2011?

    I mean, you mentioned Matt Holliday and that’s exactly what the A’s did with him. Sometimes snagging a big bat that doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways can still be a good idea.

  3. gwangung on September 27th, 2010 9:34 am

    I agree, and I prefer Dunn over Fielder, less money, equal power, awful defense, and no prospects in return. Go Jack…

    If he can be signed for a reasonable price, fine. But my understanding that what Dunn wants to do (be out in the field) is not going to be anywhere near a good fit for Seattle. Matching a player’s wants with a team needs has to be considered, too.

  4. dgarnett on September 27th, 2010 9:34 am

    On the other side of the coin however, if the price is right prospect-wise it may make sense to make a run at him ala Cliff Lee this year.

    I wouldn’t want to rule out a scenario where the M’s could take a flyer on him helping them compete in 2011 and trade him when they’re 10 games out in July. *IF* we could give up a smaller package than we could flip him for at the deadline, it makes a lot of sense even in a “rebuilding” year.

  5. bookbook on September 27th, 2010 9:40 am

    I will note that the market fit of a vegetarian slugger in Seattle (or San Fran) is much better than Milwaukee or Chicago. I don’t know how much that’s worth to a team, but probably a little bit inbtermscof reaching beyond the traditional fanbase.

  6. Westside guy on September 27th, 2010 9:46 am

    You guys realize Fielder is making $10.5 million next year, right? That seems like way too much money to spend on a DH in a rebuilding year – and given all the kids we’re playing, next year will be a rebuilding year, no question about it.

    There’s just no way we’re going to be competitive next year unless Smoak, Saunders, and Moore all break out simultaneously; Jack Wilson would have to somehow become robust physically; and Milton Bradley would have to think it was 2008 again. Plus if Milton actually did that, we wouldn’t really need Fielder.

  7. mrb on September 27th, 2010 10:34 am

    it’s amazing that our payroll is too high to increase much if at all, but that we still suck on the field.

  8. JMHawkins on September 27th, 2010 10:43 am

    …and Milton Bradley would have to think it was 2008 again. Plus if Milton actually did that, we wouldn’t really need Fielder.

    Yeah, to me that’s the thing about DHs. If you don’t already have a good one (a la Edgar), then don’t go out and spend big money on one. It’s a position you can gamble on pretty easily – sign a handful of cheap guys who have potential but also have issues and see if one of them comes through.

    All the position needs is someone who can hit, and there are a ton of guys who might be able to hit, or used to be able to hit, or can hit if they’re healthy. You can go the veteran-everyone-has-written-off route a la Frank Thomas a few years ago with the A’s. Or the AAAA masher who never got a shot (our own Bucky Jacobsen of the .357 wOBA for league minimum in 2004). Or the guy-with-baggage like Milton Bradley.

    Or you can even go the Angels route and just rotate your regulars throught the spot.

    There’s just no reason to go out and spend big dollars on a DH.

  9. JH on September 27th, 2010 10:52 am

    My gut (I know, sorry) tells me that the Tigers will end up with Fielder. If they do the sane thing and decline Magglio Ordonez’s option they’ll have about $40 million coming off the books (actually more like $46, but that’s offset by Verlander’s contract beginning to become expensive next year). They don’t have any regulars or starting pitchers due big arbitration raises this offseason, they’re coming off a disappointing season, and Dombrowski has never been shy about shipping off prospects for major trade pieces in the offseason. I’m not sure if they’re more likely to get him this offseason or wait to open the pursestrings after next year, but they stand out as his most likely landing spot to me.

  10. maqman on September 27th, 2010 11:15 am

    He isn’t a prince or a fielder so just say no. Play the kids and separate the wheat from the chaff for 2012 when Bradley and Jack Wilson are paid off and we can afford to shop for a free agent thumper if we have to and don’t grow one ourselves. The low cost/high upside approach sure didn’t work last off-season, GMZ should be due to roll a winner with those dice one of these days.

  11. G-Man on September 27th, 2010 11:23 am

    You guys realize Fielder is making $10.5 million next year, right? That seems like way too much money to spend on a DH in a rebuilding year – and given all the kids we’re playing, next year will be a rebuilding year, no question about it.

    That 10.5 mil is this year’s salary; he’s arb-eligible like Dave said, so figure a good sized raise in there. In any case, the rebuilding point is correct.

    Dave’s analysis is right, and I’m 99% sure he’ll never be a Mariner. I’ll give the leftover 1% chance that if the Brewers can’t get much for him, and Jack would be able to do the Cliff Lee move some of you want. Though there is no real hope to contend, I guess it would sell some tickets, and ownership likes to do that. He could hit a few crowd-pleasing bombs before they flip him in July.

    Of course, ownership would have to raise the payroll budget. Make that 0.1%.

  12. Badbadger on September 27th, 2010 11:29 am

    I wouldn’t want to rule out a scenario where the M’s could take a flyer on him helping them compete in 2011 and trade him when they’re 10 games out in July. *IF* we could give up a smaller package than we could flip him for at the deadline, it makes a lot of sense even in a “rebuilding” year.

    If it were possible to tell what Fielder’s value was going to be higher at the trade deadline it would be foolish for Milwaukee to trade him in the off season. As a gamble it seems high risk/low reward. Maybe he’ll come here and get injured or suck or no one will need a DH at the deadline and we’ll be out prospects for a rent-a-player in a rebuilding year. On the upside, how much better of a prospect package can you really hope for?

    I think one way to come up with production for cheap is to platoon two guys who have too large of a platoon split to be starters.

  13. Chris_From_Bothell on September 27th, 2010 11:32 am

    I agree, and I prefer Dunn over Fielder, less money, equal power, awful defense, and no prospects in return. Go Jack…

    I prefer Victor Martinez over either Dunn or Fielder.

    Victor provides a similar bat, similar age. He is probably affordable as the one purchase made at all this offseason (assuming Aardsma is moved); anything more than about 8 – 10 mil / year for more than 2 or 3 years is overpaying for him anyway. And he provides a backup at C, which we could use more than a backup at 1b or just pure-DH.

  14. zackr on September 27th, 2010 11:38 am

    It’ll be interesting to see how steady jz’s hand is this offseason. The pressure for the instant gratification of the prince fielder types has to be intense.

  15. Chris_From_Bothell on September 27th, 2010 11:41 am

    The pressure for the instant gratification of the prince fielder types has to be intense.

    Here’s hoping Howie and Chuck are not Prince Fielder types, then.

    Or if they are, that they set aside the right bump in payroll to accomodate it, without taking away from anything else.

  16. JH on September 27th, 2010 12:03 pm

    Victor provides a similar bat, similar age.

    Victor Martinez’s healthy seasons have ranged from a 121-131 WRC+. His career high of 131 is 10 points lower than Prince Fielder’s career number. Not career high. Career. That’s including the awkward adjustment years where Fielder posted WRC+’s of 99 and 115, which comprise about 20% of his career plate appearances. Fielder has three seasons under his belt that absolutely dwarf Victor Martinez’s best single effort at the plate. Likewise, of Adam Dunn’s 9 full MLB seasons, he only dipped below Martinez’s career high WRC+ in three of them. The AL/NL talent difference doesn’t close that gap.

    Martinez has been very valuable as a catcher who can hit at a very high level. The only similarities between his bat and those of Fielder and Dunn, though, is that all three are made of wood.

  17. KaminaAyato on September 27th, 2010 12:44 pm

    If we’re going under the assumption that we’re not contending until the 2012 season, then is there a point to getting a bat now?

    The only reason I see is if there’s a guy out there who is above and beyond better than any of next year’s FA class. Otherwise, stash the money for next year when so you can have the maximum available to spend on players in a season where you expect to compete.

    Otherwise, you’re locking up money now in a season that doesn’t matter that you might need later (i.e. opportunity cost).

  18. seasnake on September 27th, 2010 1:07 pm

    don’t know guys, but I’m living in San Diego and everyone was certain, going into this next season, that this year was going to be a big rebuilding year but young pitching and a great closer came through and it’s been pretty good. Except for me, of course, because I’m a Mariners fan.

    I like the idea of pairing Ichiro and Fielder. You’re telling me a core of Ichiro, Fielder, Guttierez, Smoak and Ackley couldn’t be a fun ballclub next year? Especially if the young guns come up to join king felix?

    I’m tired of thinking long term, I want a competitive ballclub now, something I can enjoy watching. If Fielder helps with that so be it, pay the piper.

  19. dnc on September 27th, 2010 1:25 pm

    Seasnake, what “young guns” are you forecasting to join Felix? There’s Pineda and…who exactly?

    The M’s aren’t at all in position to do what the Pads did. And SD didn’t sacrifice their future to acquire a rent-a-player.

  20. Westside guy on September 27th, 2010 1:25 pm

    I’d like to see this end up on Twitter: “USSM/Fangraph’s Dave Cameron thinks Fielder to the Mariners is inevitable” :-D

  21. Celadus on September 27th, 2010 1:28 pm

    seasnake:

    I believe that thinking long term is necessary, and I don’t really mind if it’s another year or so before the M’s are competitive.

    However, I am in 100% agreement that I want to be entertained when I watch a baseball game. I am not entertained by 41 games of 1 or less runs. Fielder might be too expensive, but there always seems to be a decent hitter or three out there who strikes out a lot that the team wants to shop (I’m looking at you, Arizona).

  22. Chris on September 27th, 2010 2:25 pm

    You’re telling me a core of Ichiro, Fielder, Guttierez, Smoak and Ackley couldn’t be a fun ballclub next year?

    I don’t think anybody said that it wouldn’t be fun to have Prince Fielder (or any good hitter).

    You’re thinking short-term and hoping next year will work. Others are thinking long-term and presuming it won’t. You’re willing to spend a lot of money on something that a lot of people consider a bad gamble. I’m not saying you’re wrong about whether next year can be a contending year, but you shouldn’t make the assumption that people who don’t want to pursue Prince Fielder wouldn’t like watching him.

    It’s the same reason why those who advocated trading Cliff Lee last year didn’t necessarily dislike him. It’s possible to enjoy watching a player but understand why he shouldn’t be on your team.

  23. gwangung on September 27th, 2010 2:27 pm

    Yah, that’s a pretty decent take, Celadus.

    I think we can be patient. But I think we can have fun while we’re patient….the DH position, after all, is the easiest position to fill…

  24. kennyb on September 27th, 2010 2:41 pm

    Regarding flipping Fielder like they did with Lee. Keep in mind that the only reason that worked was due to Philly giving him away. The trade JZ made to get Lee was an absolute steal. He turned around and “made a profit” so to speak only because he bought low. There will be no buying low on Fielder.

  25. Chris_From_Bothell on September 27th, 2010 3:21 pm

    Martinez has been very valuable as a catcher who can hit at a very high level. The only similarities between his bat and those of Fielder and Dunn, though, is that all three are made of wood.

    Hm, ok, I take it back.

    The age thing – I don’t know why but I keep thinking Fielder is older than his current 26.

    I initially thought they were interchangeable because of similar wOBAs, but I wasn’t aware of WRC+, so since that takes park and league into account, yeah, I see your point.

    Still, Victor’s probably going to be cheaper than Fielder and more versatile than Dunn…

  26. JH on September 27th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Otherwise, you’re locking up money now in a season that doesn’t matter that you might need later (i.e. opportunity cost).

    When you’re dealing with money, isn’t it just a…cost?

  27. nathaniel dawson on September 27th, 2010 3:35 pm

    Otherwise, stash the money for next year when so you can have the maximum available to spend on players in a season where you expect to compete.

    There’s a couple of problems with that.

    First, the Mariners ownership have never been one to forward unused money in the player payroll budget to the next year. As far as I’m aware, any money that’s unused goes to other funds, not to the following year’s payroll budget. Where it goes is anyone’s guess.

    Second, Jack is not going to want to leave money on the table when constructing a team for next year. A GM’s job is very dependent on the success of the team on the field, so he can’t afford to not try to get as many wins as he can next year. If he’s got money to spend to try to put talent on the field, he’s going to spend it.

  28. Westside guy on September 27th, 2010 4:14 pm

    The age thing – I don’t know why but I keep thinking Fielder is older than his current 26.

    You’re not the only one – I do it as well. It’s possible part of the reason is because he has been so good at a young age. I suspect, though, that at least in part it’s because of how he looks. He certainly has the “body type that doesn’t age well” as Dave mentioned… in my opinion Fielder just looks like someone who’s skills could go south at any moment, and I believe I unconsciously associate that with age.

  29. NewMsFan on September 27th, 2010 4:37 pm

    No way are the M’s “making a run” or “competing” next year. Best case scenario is they are more watchable next year.

  30. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2010 4:39 pm

    There will be other, more cost effective ways for the Mariners to bring in a DH this winter.

    I’m more concerned with bringing in a ~4 WAR player than what position they play… but yeah, there would likely be better ways of doing that, too.

    I don’t know if I can go another year of seeing our non-farm system roster adds mostly be Large Item Pickup Day kind of deals, but I am worried that’s what it’s going to be.

  31. John D. on September 27th, 2010 4:56 pm

    Otherwise, stash the money for next year so you can have the maximum available to spend on players in a season where you expect to compete.

    [There were eight(8)other comments before someone pointed out that payroll budget surpluses do not get carried over to the next year's payroll budget. Such incidents happen frrequently.]

    It seems that when someone’s comment contains an error of fact, that commenters-in-waiting should postpone their intended comment, and deal with the error of fact.

  32. samregens on September 27th, 2010 5:03 pm

    Is Vlad available?

    Putting up big bucks on Fielder looks like just another bet to me and a big one at that. And he’s a NL guy.

    I think the FO would be best served if they just assembled a list of players who have high offensive numbers hitting at Safeco. And see if any of these guys are available through FA, trade, or whatever.

    Maybe it could be said that the only FA acquisition who really succeeded big in terms of offense in the past 10 years was Ibanez among many duds. And Ibanez really mashed it in Safeco before becoming an M.

    Stop making these big bets on guys who might or might not work out. They usually don’t work out and come here and fall on their faces in terms of hitting.

    Just focus on guys who have shown that they are comfortable hitting here, small sample size (to a certain extent, let’s not get ridiculous) be damned for now, since nothing else has really worked in terms of acquiring good offense.

  33. samregens on September 27th, 2010 5:10 pm

    That should be “Putting up big bucks on Fielder looks like just another shaky bet”

  34. gwangung on September 27th, 2010 5:37 pm

    I think the FO would be best served if they just assembled a list of players who have high offensive numbers hitting at Safeco. And see if any of these guys are available through FA, trade, or whatever.

    Well, you know….that has the obvious problem of immediately ruling out half the potential players since the National League doesn’t hit here regularly.

  35. TherzAlwaysHope on September 27th, 2010 5:39 pm

    To change the subject, Smoak seems to be a much more relaxed hitter at the plate. I like what I see. Opinions?

  36. just a fan on September 27th, 2010 5:57 pm

    I’m tired of thinking long term, I want a competitive ballclub now, something I can enjoy watching. If Fielder helps with that so be it, pay the piper.

    I’m sick of thinking long-term too, because it displays where the club is right now. However, it was the denial of long-term thinking in previous similarly miserable seasons that has forced such a boring, putrid product on the field this year.

    Bringing in Prince Fielder would be one big fat example of what’s been wrong with the Mariners since 2004.

  37. henryv on September 27th, 2010 8:01 pm

    Putting Prince Fielder on the 2011 Mariners is the same thing as putting a dual exhaust system on a Yugo.

    Or, kinda like putting Cliff Lee on the 2010 Mariners, come to think of it.

  38. henryv on September 27th, 2010 8:02 pm

    Bringing in Prince Fielder would be one big fat example of what’s been wrong with the Mariners since 2004.

    Ah, is there anything better than a good fat guy joke?

  39. Swungonandbelted on September 27th, 2010 8:29 pm

    The guy that Prince Fielder reminds me of is Mo Vaughn, a guy who could hit the crap out of the ball, but ultimately had his career cut short because of injuries. With the weight that Fielder is carrying around, one of these days he’s going to take a hack and throw his back out, or he’s going to end up with knee problems and then you have a really really expensive version of Russel Branyan.

  40. SonOfZavaras on September 27th, 2010 9:40 pm

    I’ve said this before on here, but I’m dead set against the idea of Fielder ever putting on Mariner togs.

    He’s going to be out of the game by the time he’s 33, and I’d bet cash money he becomes chronically injury-prone by the time he’s 29-30. He’s a classic bad-body that just won’t age well. His old man did the same.

    Not. Worth. The thought. And we don’t have the dough, anyway.

    We need more than a Prince Fielder, even if Zduriencik decides to pull some Jedi mind tricks on the maneuver.

    We’re way better off leaving this one alone.

  41. SonOfZavaras on September 27th, 2010 9:43 pm

    You all can mark it down that I said so, I’ll stand by this opinion of Smoak:

    The kid is for real. I see that swing, and I don’t think those mechanics and approach are a lie.

    In three years, one of the most (maybe even the most) dangerous switch-hitters in the game.

  42. furlong on September 28th, 2010 8:42 am

    Getting Prince Fielder would be a big fat mistake just another N.L. mistake. He would be a huge flop at Safeco. It would actually make more sense to sign Cecil Fielder we know he could hit A.L. pitching.

  43. Badbadger on September 28th, 2010 11:19 am

    If we’re going under the assumption that we’re not contending until the 2012 season, then is there a point to getting a bat now?

    I think there is. For many of us baseball is a thing that happens game by game, not season by season. Only one team gets to win the world series every year if you can’t enjoy a season when you’re not contending you’re not going to get much out of the game, especially here in Seattle.

    That said, it’s more important that they build a good team than worry about next year, and they should get a bat who is either a long term answer or a short term rental with no long term costs.

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