The Nationals have stayed quiet for some time on Prince Fielder. General Manager Mike Rizzo has been declining comment on a near-daily basis for the past week or so, even deciding against taking questions from reporters when the team announced Gio Gonzalez’s contract extension. Other efforts to get the Nationals’ perspective on their pursuit of Fielder have come up empty, too.
There have been no signs, at least publicly, that the wait for Fielder to sign is much closer to ending. But a few executives across the league have been weighing in on the Fielder sweepstakes. Here’s the latest:
>>> Today in Baltimore, Orioles GM Dan Duquette indicated to reporters, including MASN.com, that the Orioles are still hanging in to sign Fielder. “Are we going to get him?” Duquette said. “I don’t know. If we don’t, we’ll look for someone just like him.”
It has been a while since the Orioles broke the bank on a free agent like Fielder, and their losing ways presumably make Baltimore an unappealing destination for a player of his caliber. But with their flagging attendance, the Orioles might be motivated to add an attraction like Fielder.
Peter Angelos probably wouldn’t mind stealing away a star the Nationals have their eye on. Then again, Angelos would directly reap some of the rewards from the Nationals if Fielder signed in Washington – his presence would help TV ratings, and Angelos owns the majority of MASN.
>>> Rangers President Nolan Ryan is having a hard time figuring out what Scott Boras, Fielder’s agent, wants. During an interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 on Friday, Ryan was asked how far apart the Rangers and Fielder are in terms of contract discussions.
“Hard to say, because they’ve never made a firm proposal to us,” Ryan said. “They talk in generalities and numbers and other people’s contracts, and so you can speculate what it is. One time they’re talking eight years, one time they’re talking 10 years, one time they’re talking about a contract bigger than Ryan Howard’s in Philadelphia.
“You look at it and find creative ways that might give them a comfort level that they might be willing to come here. I think everybody would like to see him in your lineup. All we can do is see what develops and you never know.”
The Rangers and Nationals are considered the teams most likely to land Fielder, and Ryan did not shy away from the Rangers having interest in Fielder. But, as the Rangers have been publicly repeating, he downplayed their ability to sign Fielder following their signing of Yu Darvish with a total outlay of more than $111 million.
“He’s an impressive player,” Ryan said of the first baseman. “For his body type, he’s very athletic, very strong. He brings a lot to a ballclub, and so our interest level, if it worked within our budget and we can acquire Prince Fielder, we’d be a better ballcub. Do we have an interest? Yeah, we have an interest. Is it realistic to say we have a shot at him? With [signing Darvish] and the position that Scott Boras is taking, it’s pretty hard to think that would develop.”
Then again, Ryan closed with this: “When you think you’re out of something, you get up the next day and find out opportunities exist.” With deep pockets and a smart, creative front office, the Rangers can’t be counted out.
>>> Rangers co-chairman Bob Simpson, also speaking with ESPN Dallas, spelled out an argument against signing Fielder: He’d rather use that money to sign center fielder Josh Hamilton to a long-term extension.
“We’ve got guys, frankly, like Josh Hamilton that I would love to see re-signed,” Simpson said. “My personal preference, at this moment, would be to re-sign him instead of having Fielder. But we could all debate that. The organization has its feelings. Everybody dreams about having both. Sometimes you can’t have both at some level. If they came around to something we’d do, we’d look at him. But we don’t think it’s likely.”
”He’s been considered, but given our set of cards, too pricey. If that were to change, I guess they’d look at it harder. Right now he’s priced himself out of what we could do.”
It’s an indication of how the Rangers feel about Hamilton that he was present for Darvish’s first meeting with the media Friday night. His redemptive story and singular skill have been central storylines within the Rangers’ rise as one of the model franchises in the sport.
But if the Rangers are choosing between Fielder and Hamilton for the long-term – and removing sentimentality – I think you have to choose Fielder, and it’s not even very close.
Fielder is younger – by the end of May, he’ll be 28 and Hamilton will be 31. Despite concerns about his body type, Fielder has been incredibly durable, playing 959 out of a possible 972 games over the past six seasons. Hamilton has missed 143 games in the past three seasons. It is reasonable to assume Hamilton’s injuries are not fluky, given the toll his past drug use took on his body. That’s not being flippant, it’s just a fact.
Hamilton gives more athleticism than Fielder, but as he ages he’ll have to play a corner outfield spot, which reduces his defensive value. And in the American League, the Rangers have the choice to play Fielder at designated hitter. With only Mitch Moreland at first base, they could pretty easily make room for him in the field, too.