The problems that Prince Fielder is going to have in securing the contract he wants are many.
Without the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in pursuit; the Mets and Dodgers in financial disarray and out of the running; the Angels having spent on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson instead of Fielder; the Cardinals signing Carlos Beltran and shifting Lance Berkman to first base rather than signing Fielder to replace Pujols, that leaves a limited number of destinations who could—I didn’t say would—but could pay him the amount of money for the number of years he desires.
The Orioles, Nationals, Mariners and Cubs can do it.
A year after Boras somehow, some way convinced the Nationals to give Jayson Werth $126 million, they’d be pretty stupid to fall for the same trick twice even though Fielder is far younger and more productive than Werth.
The Orioles have the money, but are they willing to spend it? GM Dan Duquette likes to have that one offensive and pitching star and insert fill-in pieces around them, but the Orioles haven’t spent that kind of cash in years.
The rumblings from around the Cubs are that Theo Epstein wants to tear the whole thing apart—Fielder would be a repeat of the mistakes he made in his final years with the Red Sox in overpaying for free agents to placate the masses rather than what would be good for the team; that’s not what he envisioned nor what he did in practice when he took over the Red Sox in 2003-2005.
The Mariners can pay Fielder and desperately need his power, but it may come down to GM Jack Zduriencik completing the triple play of convincing team ownership to cut ties with Ichiro Suzuki after the 2012 season; getting them to at least let him listen on Felix Hernandez for a big package; and talking Boras into lowering his demands from 10 years to 6-8 years.
That’s another thing.
There’s a legitimate concern that Fielder is going to turn into Mo Vaughn; that his knees won’t be able to handle his weight; that his defensive shortcomings will grow worse as he gets older; and that if he stays in the National League, he won’t be hidden as a DH.
But Boras is undeterred.
Amid talk that Fielder might be willing to take a shorter term, massive cash contract and try for free agency again at age 30-32, Boras lashed out as only he can by doing his “Boras-Thing” and turning Fielder into Barry Bonds.
The quote from this ESPN Chicago piece vaults right into the top 10 of 2011:
“Not only is that inaccurate and delusional, but it seems that some people have gotten into their New Year’s Eve stash just a little bit early this year.”
While his clients drink the Kool-Aid, Boras’s own agenda must be considered as he tries to save face and reputation by delivering for his last remaining big name client on the market.
Mark Teixeira and Beltran both fired him.
Reports had Ryan Madson’s goal of a 4-year, $44 million deal about to be met before the Phillies came to their senses and went after Jonathan Papelbon instead; now Madson is waiting…waiting…waiting (that’s the hardest part).
Francisco Rodriguez made a high-profile hiring of Boras at mid-season only to see his no-trade clause rendered meaningless as the Mets traded him before Boras could submit the list of teams to which he couldn’t be traded; then he waived his 2012 option to be a free agent and, with the closer market flooded and offers non-existent, K-Rod accepted arbitration from the Brewers. One would assume that since he took arbitration, the no-trade clause is not in effect and the Brewers can turn around and trade K-Rod wherever if they choose to—that’s not what a veteran pitcher with K-Rod’s on-field resume expects when they hire Boras.
It’s down to Fielder.
Boras is clinging to that final vestige of prestige and fear engendered by the mere mentioning of his name. That reputation has been a burgeoning entity and raised him into the stratosphere of agents who get things done.
But it also feeds on itself.
That’s the line he’s straddling with his outward display of confidence mitigated by a reality that he knows all too well.
There’s plenty of time and several destinations for Fielder, but for how long can Boras continue with his PR blitz of bloviating and outrageous demands as teams consider alternatives to Fielder?
Don’t underestimate Boras, but for Fielder it’s coming down to numbers—on the check; the length of contract; and the scale. He might have to tell his agent that it’s time to be more flexible and hope that the next time he’s a free agent, the list of teams that can and will bid on his services isn’t as limited as it is now.
Or he could get a different agent.
Players have done that recently as well.