The Prince Fielder Free Agency Profile

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Name: Prince Fielder.

Position: First base.

Vital Statistics: Age-28; Height-5’11”; Listed Weight-275; Actual weight-more than 275; Drafted in the 1st round (7th pick) by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2002 MLB Draft.

Agent: Scott Boras.

Chances of returning to the Brewers: None whatsoever.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; New York Yankees; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Minnesota Twins; Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Washington Nationals; Florida Marlins; Chicago Cubs; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

He has massive power and patience; a fiery competitor; he’s intense and hits or walks in the clutch.

Fielder will hit his home runs wherever he goes and draws plenty of walks. For a power hitter in today’s game, he doesn’t strike out that much—135 a year is reasonable in comparison to the likes of Ryan Howard.

His intensity and on-field confrontational nature is a dual-edged sword; it indicates a simmering anger, but it fuels him.

Put him in a batting order with a good hitter in front and major protection behind him and he’d put up bigger numbers than he did in Milwaukee.

Negatives:

His weight—listed at 275—hasn’t been as much of an issue as it would be with a player who actually has to move. He’s supposedly a vegan, which I find very strange. Mike Tyson was over 300 lbs, became a vegan and slimmed down to fighting trim; Fielder became a vegan and got bigger.

For a player who relies on speed or attributes related to his size, it would be a problem; Fielder doesn’t. Stress on his knees will be a concern if he gets heavier and a fat contract can contribute to a fat player getting fatter, but Fielder will always hit his homers and walk. A club has to and will accept this when signing him.

Can he DH? Is he willing to DH? It’s not as easy as it sounds. While he’s a better hitter than Adam Dunn, Dunn couldn’t adjust to DHing or the American League and was a disaster with the White Sox—no one could’ve anticipated it.

It’s a super-small sample and I’m not dissecting it for pitchers, ballparks and other factors, but Fielder is 18 for 78 in his career as a DH with 3 homers and a .295 on base percentage. It’s not something to ignore.

Fielder won’t want to DH regularly and his defense is bad and going to get worse. He catches the balls he can get to; he’s quicker than he looks, but he’s not, nor will he ever be, a good defensive first baseman.

What he’ll want: 8-years, $190 million.

What he’ll get: 6-years, $148 million guaranteed with an easy option to raise it to 7-years, $173 million.

There will be a player opt-out mid-stream and a guarantee the team that signs him won’t offer arbitration at the contract’s conclusion so he won’t cost a compensatory draft pick (if that rule is still in existence).

Teams that might give it to him: Orioles, Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs.

I’m not predicting where he’s going to go; nor will I do so with other free agents aside from the most obvious ones like Albert Pujols—the obvious ones tend to stay where they are or have ties to a particular club pursuing them.

If you look at the predictions for Jayson Werth a year ago, no one had him going to the Nationals; most “mainstream insiders” had him signing with the Angels, Red Sox, Giants or Yankees and they were all wrong.

Cliff Lee was just about guaranteed to be a Yankee and no one considered the Phillies.

Werth wound up with the Nationals for $126 million—an amount of cash that aghast the industry.

Lee went back to the team with which he was comfortable, the Phillies, for less money than the Yankees offered.

Would I sign Fielder if I were a GM? No.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? No. He’ll produce as long as they know what they’re getting and put him in the right circumstances.

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Your 2012 Rangers Seeking A Different—Winning—Result

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Those trying to blame Rangers manager Ron Washington for the World Series loss are looking for scapegoats. Talent aside, there have been many teams who didn’t fulfill their promise for one reason or another; to suggest that another manager would simply have plugged in the correct players at the “right” time are taking second-guessing to its logical conclusion.

The players play hard for Washington and always have; the Rangers knew he wasn’t the strongest game manager going back to his first year and he hasn’t gotten much better; but to blame him?

It’s silly. Another manager might not have even made the playoffs at all.

We don’t know.

He had his closer on the mound with a 2 run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of game 6 in the World Series; there were 2 strikes and 2 outs and his closer blew it. What more was he supposed to do?

The Rangers have more pressing questions to answer once they get past this devastating loss.

Let’s take a look.

Washington’s contract is up after 2012.

While Washington shouldn’t be dismissed because of this loss, there’s going to be the hovering question—valid or not—as to whether he’s the prototypical “manager to take them to the next level”.

That’s usually an excuse for a club wanting to make a managerial change, but it’s just as random as any other reason—they don’t have to give a reason to make a change.

Washington’s job is safe and he’ll probably get an extension through 2013 so he’s not working in the final year of his deal in 2012.

Mr. Intangibles is expensive.

The player with the most ancillary importance in baseball this side of Derek Jeter—rife with leadership skills and loyalty—Michael Young still might be trade bait.

He’s set to make $32 million through 2013 and is a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the league; 5 years with the same team) so he’d have to approve any trade; there’s something of a redundancy with the club’s position players and Young’s value is never going to be higher than it is now by those who either need someone who’s as versatile and well-liked as he is or are hypnotized by his “aura”.

The Mets for example could use him as a second baseman; the Phillies could use him as a roving utility player who plays every day.

The Rangers will listen to offers—again—for Young.

Contracts and free agents.

Josh Hamilton is a free agent after 2012 and the Rangers have to consider very carefully his injury history and substance abuse history before making a $120 million investment.

Perhaps God will whisper to Hamilton that he should stay in Texas at a reduced rate.

C.J. Wilson is a free agent now and while the Rangers want to keep him, they’re not getting into a bidding war to do it. Those that were suggesting that his price was reducing with every poor post-season outing don’t know anything about baseball, pure and simple. 200 innings are 200 innings and his post-season struggles had more to do with location than any diminishing of stuff. He’s going to get his big contract from someone and it’s probably not going to be the Rangers.

Strategies.

If the Rangers are going to move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, they have to make the decision once and for all—in the winter—and stick to it. The “let’s try it in spring training and move him back if it doesn’t work” isn’t a decision, it’s hedging.

Feliz is 23 and after the way the World Series ended for him, the choice has to be made with finality.

Pursuits.

The Rangers have been said to be preparing a pursuit of CC Sabathia if and when he opts out of his Yankees contract. It’s unlikely that the Yankees will let him leave, but worst case scenario, they’ll raise the price the Yankees have to pay and possibly negate them from going after other players the Rangers might want.

Yu Darvish is going to be worth every penny he costs in posting fees and contracts and will be better than Wilson.

The Rangers could use a bat if they decide to trade Young; David Ortiz and Jim Thome would fit nicely in at DH; if they allocate their money to a bat rather than on the mound, Prince Fielder is a target. Mark Buehrle wouldn’t ask for the world in terms of dollars and is a good fit in the Rangers clubhouse.

If they need a closer, Jonathan Papelbon has the post-season history that few closers in baseball do; Francisco Rodriguez and Heath Bell are big names; Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan and Ryan Madson are free agents on the lower tier.

On the trade front, the Rays are always ready to deal and James Shields is durable, good and signed long term. Both the Rangers and Rays think outside the box, so I’d ask about David Price and see what they say.

Would they—Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux—think they could straighten out Mike Pelfrey? Would Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell and the hope of clearing Young’s salary make a deal possible with the Mets?

The Rangers and White Sox have dealt with one another before and John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin are up for auction.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels and team president Ryan think differently and are aggressive to address needs. The Rangers are going to make the changes they deem necessary so they’re back in this same position a year from now, but finally achieve a different result—a winning result.

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Free Agent Strategizing, Texas Style

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C.J. Wilson is going to want a lot of money as a free agent.

Presumably, he’ll have his eyes on an $100 million payday, but that’s not going to happen. I’d expect something closer to the deals A.J. Burnett and John Lackey signed with the Yankees and Red Sox ($82.5 million over 5-years). Undoubtedly whichever team signs Wilson will hope for better results than Burnett and Lackey have provided.

In an interesting side note to the Wilson free agency wheel, the Phillies declined the 2012, $16 million option for Roy Oswalt and are paying him a $2 million buyout. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he’s open to discussing a new contract with Oswalt, but that’s not going to happen. They have to worry about re-signing Ryan Madson and signing Cole Hamels to a long-term deal; plus they need a bat more than they need pitching.

So how do the Oswalt-Wilson maneuverings connect?

Here’s how: the Rangers aren’t getting into a bidding war for C.J. Wilson especially after the doom and gloom surrounding their loss of Cliff Lee and that they won another pennant without him. They’re said to be interested in Yu Darvish and CC Sabathia, but what would make more sense and be in line with their philosophy is to sign Oswalt—who is a Nolan Ryan favorite; is still a great pitcher when healthy; would love to go to Texas; and wouldn’t demand a 5-year contract—shift Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation; pay for a closer like Heath Bell or Francisco Rodriguez; and spend the money that they’ll offer Wilson (figure around $65 million) on two pitchers to fill three holes instead of using all that money to keep one.

The Rangers would have competition for Oswalt, but he’s often spoken about not playing for that much longer nor having interest in the big city and accompanying aggravation, expectations and attention; Oswalt was reluctant to go to Philadelphia, he’s absolutely not going to want to go to New York and he’s not going to want to go to Boston. He probably would prefer to stay in the National League as well, but would make the exception to go to Texas.

The Rangers have done well with players like Josh Hamilton and a manager, Ron Washington, who’ve had personal problems; they could handle and corral K-Rod or deal with Bell’s quirky personality; and they’re nervy enough to take an established closer like Feliz and move him, once and for all, into the starting rotation just as they did with Wilson.

They’ll be just as good or better and won’t be spending all that money on one player while still having other holes to fill and it would fit right into their budget.

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Beltran Or Swisher?

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The Carlos Beltran free agent maneuverings could have domino affects all over baseball, but especially with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Normally I totally ignore Joel Sherman of the New York Post (aside from when he’s plagiarizing me—scroll down to the section beginning with “Hmmm”), but he’s repeatedly suggested that Beltran might be a possibility for the Yankees to replace Nick Swisher if they choose to decline Swisher’s 2012 contract option for $10.25 million.

It’s a good idea if the Yankees are willing to commit the years (probably at least three guaranteed with a player option for the fourth) to sign Beltran and allow Swisher to leave. Beltran proved he was healthy and able to be a superior, All Star player in 2011 with the Mets and Giants; he’s only 34 and despite his reluctance to DH, presumably he’d be willing to do it part of the time to extend his career and stay on the field.

There are other issues with Swisher/Beltran that have to be considered.

The Red Sox also have a hole in right field and Beltran’s quiet professionalism might be a welcome addition to the poisoned Red Sox clubhouse—but then again, so might Swisher’s.

Swisher is anything but quiet, but his gregarious personality keeps things light for the Yankees and they might miss it if he leaves; the Red Sox could use Swisher on and off the field.

You know what you’re getting with Swisher and can reasonably assume you’ll get similar 2011 production from Beltran.

Swisher is 3 1/2 years younger; Beltran has been great in the post-season; Swisher’s been terrible. Because Beltran is a switch-hitter, he’d add a dimension to both lineups that the clubs currently lack. Swisher’s 2011 splits were odd in that he batted well over .300 vs lefties and .232 vs righties; most of his power numbers (17 of his 23 homers) came off of right-handed pitchers.

Both players handle the spotlight of New York and would also deal well with Boston. If the Red Sox make substantial changes to their club, Beltran might be expected to take an active role in the new configuration; that would not be the case with the Yankees where he could replicate Bernie Williams and fade into the background and be left alone to do his job.

Two players that were sorely misjudged in the Red Sox culture were Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez; the players that replaced them were quieter types Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Both Beltre and Martinez would’ve put a stop to some of the things that went on as the Red Sox came apart. Beltran brings some of what Beltre and Martinez did in an understated way. But Swisher brings back some of the “idiot” attitude from 2004.

The money’s not an issue to the Yankees, but with Jorge Posada leaving, it’d be a drastic change to let Swisher go as well and replace him with the subdued Beltran. But Beltran’s the better, more consistent and versatile player; and more importantly, has come through in the playoffs when the Yankees needed Swisher and he faltered. Plus signing Beltran won’t cost any compensatory draft picks making him more attractive to Brian Cashman.

They have to decide which is more important. Clubhouse cohesion; a better player; or the the Red Sox making a move on either Beltran or Swisher.

Don’t be surprised if one winds up in Boston and the other in New York.

The only question is which goes where and for how much?

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Yankees Need To Think Long, Hard And Round With CC Sabathia

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Without the snide jokes and the Moneyball references about fat players being the new sex symbols, CC Sabathia‘s weight is an issue that the Yankees have to consider—among others—if he opts out of his contract and wants what amounts to an extension.

Bill Madden wrote in his column that in the last 6-8 weeks of the season, Sabathia put on 35-40 pounds.

In two months!!!

It’s a problem.

And it’s something the Yankees have to address if Sabathia wants his contract basically extended so it’s a guaranteed $150 million.

In fact, I’d tell him straight out that he has to lose weight. Period. And I’d put it in the contract.

Much was made of Sabathia dropping significant poundage coming into this season to take pressure off his knees.

Sabathia’s a large man and he’s never going to be svelte, but there’s no excuse for him expanding like the reputation of The Most Interesting Man In The World.

(Sabathia needs to lay of the cerveza, by the way.)

What makes it all the more egregious is that he’s quite possibly going to be a free agent again. One would think at his age, 31, he’d be more conscientious about staying in some semblance of shape (for him). What was he doing on the extra day the Yankees gave him by using the 6-man rotation? Spending it making the rounds glad-handing in the all-you-can-eat section at Yankee Stadium? How is it possible to gain that much weight?

The Yankees have to think seriously and unemotionally about this before doling out a check to Sabathia. The entire team isn’t getting any younger; they have multiple holes in the starting rotation that they’re apparently not prepared to use Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos to fill at the beginning of 2012; and when they do bring them up, they’re certainly not going to let them pitch like normal human beings; they’ll be on strict pitch/innings counts for at least the first two seasons of their big league careers.

So where are they getting those innings from?

Here’s what I’d do if I were the Yankees and Sabathia opted out of the contract.

I’d let him leave.

Sabathia’s current contract would call for $23 million annually through 2015; if he opts out and returns, one would assume he’ll want it extended through 2018 for another $60 million.

No.

If Sabathia isn’t willing to show a commitment for fitness, then there’s no new contract.

What the Yankees could do in lieu of Sabathia is pursue and get two of the three big name starting pitchers on the free agent market. Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are all out there and available.

Buehrle, 33 next March, is a guaranteed 220 innings; he’ll win 15-18 games; he’ll lose 8-12; and he’ll gut his way through with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.50, allow 20 or so homers allowed and maybe sprinkle a perfect game somewhere in there. Best of all with Buehrle, he’s constantly talking about when he’s going to retire, so he’s not going to require a 5-7 year contract a pitcher of his stature could reasonably ask for if he so desired.

Say he’s willing to take 3-years, $40 million.

Then you have Jackson and Wilson.

I think Jackson has star potential; he’s big and durable and because he was in the big leagues at 19, he’s only 28; even represented by Scott Boras, one would think a contract of 5-6 years at $75-80 million would get it done.

Wilson, 31, can be expected to provide 200+ innings a seasons for the foreseeable future in part because he was a reliever for the first 5 years of his big league career and the wear-and-tear on his arm is lessened as he enters his early-30s. Perhaps he wants a 6-year, $80-$90 million deal.

Rather than pay Sabathia that guaranteed cash and get the 200 innings a year—from an admittedly terrific pitcher—for the next couple of seasons, they could have two pitchers for the same money and get 400 innings and not have to worry about the burgeoning waistline of Sabathia.

If he opts out, they have to take a long, hard, round and ruthless look at it. If he’s too demanding or they have the above options in hand, they have to let him walk.

He could use the exercise anyway.

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