Scott Boras, You Just Keep Being You

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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.

Chubby order.

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.”

Classic Boras.

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.


Prince Fielder’s Free Agent Possibilities

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Prince Fielder will not be back with the Brewers.

And I don’t want to hear how he’d “love” to stay in Milwaukee; if he truly wants to stay in Milwaukee, I’m sure he could find a way to live on the $100 million or whatever amount of deranged sum they offer. Part of the reason players generally shun their original, mid-market home is due to union pressure to take the largest offer; and that they want to outdo their peers in terms of zeroes on the check.

It’s the same form of egomania that was evident in Moneyball as Billy Beane wants a monetary value on what it is he does. (And what it is he does is becoming increasingly mysterious as time passes; it’s an existential question: what does Billy Beane do? I dunno—he’s becoming Kim Kardashian; he’s famous and we don’t really know why.)

You can forget about the Yankees and Red Sox being in on Fielder despite fan greed about bringing in another $140 million bat. Fielder won’t want to DH, the Yankees have a first baseman and don’t want to clog up the DH spot with another immobile body and onerous contract. They have to re-sign CC Sabathia and/or bring in some better starting pitching.

With the Red Sox, owner John Henry openly regretted the Carl Crawford contract and expressed his wariness at the whole free agent process—do you really think they’re going to bring in an $140 million DH? Really? They, like the Yankees, need pitching.

With that established, let’s handicap and eliminate Fielder’s possible landing spots based on who could use him and who can afford him.

Teams that could use him, but can’t pay him.

Oakland Athletics: It’s pretty funny (no, it’s very funny) that Fielder was singled out in Moneyball as being “too fat” for the team that was portrayed as openly looking for fat players, and Fielder wound up being the most productive bat in the draft.

He’s not going to Oakland and it’s not because of the ballpark or that he doesn’t appreciate the value of being around “genius”; it’s because they can’t pay him.

Pittsburgh Pirates: After their mid-summer flirtation with contention, it only took a few short weeks for whatever spell had been aiding them to wear off and they reverted back into being…the Pirates.

They were 14th in runs scored in the National League in 2011, but they’re supposedly about to ridiculously repeat the same mistake they made with Matt Capps (they non-tendered him) and decline the option on a useful arm in Paul Maholm.

Um, he’s a guy you can trade, y’know? Sort of the way the Nationals traded Capps for a starting catcher they’ll have for the next 10 years in Wilson Ramos? Get it?

Why would anyone with options want to go to Pittsburgh?

San Francisco Giants: There’s a bit of an upheaval and apparent tightening of the pursestrings with Bill Neukom forced out as CEO. They’re more likely to keep Carlos Beltran than bring in any difference-making free agent. They also have to sign Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson in the coming years, so forget Fielder.

San Diego Padres: They just traded a better all-around player in Adrian Gonzalez because they weren’t going to be able to pay him, so it would make zero sense to sign Fielder.

Teams that could use him, pay him and won’t pursue him.

Los Angeles Angels: The Vernon Wells contract is now their problem and it got Tony Reagins ousted. They have two first basemen with Mark Trumbo, the (hopefully) returning Kendrys Morales and Fielder doesn’t want to DH. I would expect them to pursue a trade for the likes of David Wright or chase Jose Reyes instead of jumping in on Fielder.

Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein has enough problems; they’ve got Carlos Pena, who’s okay; and you can find a first baseman relatively easily.

Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter is running things and prefers to have a more versatile, defensively-balanced club with interchangeable parts. Offense wasn’t the Orioles problem, the pitching was.

Teams that could pay him, use him and go after him.

Washington Nationals: Are they agent Scott Boras’s new “go-to guys”? He somehow managed to get them to give Jayson Werth $126 million, are looking to make a splash and rapid leap into contention and have the money.

Adam LaRoche is owed a guaranteed $9 million, but missed most of the 2011 season; the Nats desperately need a bat; they’re better off going after Reyes, but don’t discount them on Fielder.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The McCourts are now divorced and Frank has the Dodgers; but the legal red tape requires a machete to cut through and they have to sign Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and must begin considering locking up Clayton Kershaw.

I don’t see Fielder going to the Dodgers, but they spent last winter when no one thought they had any money; they have to be considered.

Seattle Mariners: They were last in the AL in runs scored. It’s ironic that the double-dealing they pulled on the Yankees with Cliff Lee looks like they wound up with a worse deal from the Rangers. Will ownership interfere and force GM Jack Zduriencik to keep Ichiro Suzuki rather than look for a legitimate offensive force like Fielder?

Zduriencik drafted Fielder with the Brewers.

They do have the money to sign him and their young pitching can’t go on with a team that simply doesn’t score any runs.

Florida Marlins: They’re repeatedly referenced as teams that are going to go all-in for players in free agency. Albert Pujols has been talked about, but he’s not leaving the Cardinals. One drawback of the Marlins pursuing and getting Fielder would be the homers he’d hit in Florida would be accompanied by this monstrosity.

Here’s my guess: Fielder goes to Seattle for 7-years and $148 million.