Should the Orioles Try to Sign Prince Fielder?
As the playoff teams are becoming set and the season winding down, the mindsets of Orioles fans begin to wonder one thing…who will we sign in the off season? Answering that question is never a simple task. This will be especially true this off season; when the big unknown is who will our GM be come 2012? Well, I won’t bore you with a position by position look at key free agents this year. What I can tell you is that first base is by far the “loaded position” on the free agent market.
I’m sure many of you have heard by now that there are to stars looking to break the bank on mega-deals after this season. Both of these offensive juggernauts place the first base position. You may have heard of them, “King Albert” Pujols and Prince Fielder. These two players have been the models of consistency since they both broke into the big leagues and are finally looking to cash in. Fielder and Pujols can easily be penciled in for 30 homeruns and over 100 runs batted in every season. Pujols is said by many to be the best player in the game, while Fielder has a 50 homerun season on his resume in Milwaukee.
Just so you all can visualize the amount of money these two are expecting, let’s look to two other first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox and Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Along with Pujols and Fielder, AGon and Howard were also supposed to be in this free agent class. Ryan Howard ended up singing a long term extension with the Phillies for 5 years and $125 million dollars. Gonzalez had a bit of a different situation. He was traded from the San Diego Padres to Boston…pending a contract extension with the BoSox. He ended up signing for 7 years and $154 million. Those are large figures on their on, but will definitely be considered starting points for Pujols and Fielder.
Ultimately, Fielder and Pujols will command HUGE salaries from year to year, probably a total commitment of 7 or 8 years for each player. With Pujols most likely to be returning to St. Louis, Fielder becomes the prize of the market for offensive players. With the Orioles having a potential hole at first base AND money to spend, many have linked Prince to Baltimore. Question is, would this be a wise investment? I am not going to waste time discussing stats, because I’m sure you’ve all heard them. You know Fielder is immensely talented and any team would LOVE that power presence in their lineup. What I’d like to focus on, is would he be a fit financially?
Let’s just say Fielder would land a 8 year deal worth $200 million (may be a bit high). That comes out to $25 million a season, barring incentives or clauses. The Orioles, being a mid-market team with 13 losing seasons, would have to overpay dramatically just to get a star player’s attention these days. The sad state of baseball in Baltimore is that players do not place the Orioles at the top of their preferred destinations list. Signing Fielder, while it would attract fans, would handcuff the Orioles payroll and not allow them to pursue other parts that they would need to fill through free agency. Moreover, 8 years is a long time to commit to one player. Fielder’s power could disappear late in the deal or injuries could occur. With Prince’s body size, weight could become an issue in the future for him. Any contract in baseball is a risk; but the risk here is WAY too high. So high that, it in fact eclipses or diminishes any potential for return that Fielder can provide.
I get why the Orioles pursued local product, Mark Teixeira a few years back. He was the local icon, that many fans hoped would help his hometown club return to the glory days of the past. Teixeira turned out to be a $180 million investment for the New York Yankees. This situation is very different. Fielder, while he’s been great in Milwaukee, would not be the same in Baltimore. There is very limited protection in this lineup for him, since he had Ryan Braun batting in front of or behind him on the Brewers. The Orioles should instead focus that money on pitching and try to slowly develop a winning mentality here. Mark Reynolds has shown the ability to play first base. A third basemen, currently of the Cubs, Aramis Ramirez, has stated he will opt out of his contract to test free agency. I say the Orioles at least take a look at him, since he can provide somewhat similar offensive production to Fielder and will cost a lot less.
My opinion, as it stands, is to not give in to the pressure and make a monumental mistake singing Fielder long term. I know the fans here crave a winner, but there are more than enough arguments to prove why this would not be an ideal solution. The Orioles can and hopefully will get back to contention in the coming years, but they need to spend money wisely. The closing remark will be this…”Don’t spend the dollars, if it doesn’t make sense”.