What’s the right price to pay for a 113-RBI-per-year 275-pounder who made 15 errors last year? What’s the risk in a star who had a similarly rotund father who hit 95 homers at ages 26-27 but never had a good year after 32?
For the Nats, is any price the right price when you already have a decent first baseman (Adam LaRoche) and a logical replacement (Michael Morse) and your real and pressing need is actually a leadoff center fielder?
When Pujols signed for $254 million for 10 years, baseball assumed the news was good for Fielder, who was four years younger and one level lower as a hitter. Now, it looks like Prince should’ve stayed in Milwaukee, where he was loved and comfortable and might have gotten as much as he’ll bag now.
The teams rumored as possible destinations for Fielder — because they’re the only ones that may have enough money and no expensive star first baseman already in place — are the Rangers, Mariners, Cubs, Blue Jays, Orioles and Nationals.
How nice. Except all of them say they don’t want Prince, or at least not at the $200-million-plus price that came into play when Pujols signed.
We know when this logjam will break. The Rangers face a Jan. 18 deadline to sign Yu Darvish, presumably for more than $100 million. If they agree to terms (highly likely), that probably takes Texas out of the picture. But if Darvish goes back to Japan, Texas will be all over Fielder to keep pace with the Albert Angels of Los Angeles. Few think Texas will spend $300 million for both Darvish and Fielder; they’ve already been to two World Series.
What’s left? Not much, really. The Cubs and M’s have made it clear that they’re rebuilding, so no thanks. The Cubs are more likely to trade Matt Garza for prospects than sign Fielder. The M’s offense is so awful Prince would get about one pitch to hit per week. Both teams’ GMs have openly ridiculed reports that they would pursue Fielder aggressively.
The Blue Jays (81-81), with new blood, and the O’s may get in the game, but both indicate it won’t be near current $200 million speculation. Besides, royalty doesn’t want to play for Peter Angelos’s little shop of horrors in Baltimore.
Agent Scott Boras had better find one of his famous “mystery teams” soon. The Prince market has softened so quickly that this week’s flash has Fielder, to save face, considering a three-year deal at a Pujols-per-annum, then trying the free agent waters again at age 30. Boras quickly branded that speculation as inaccurate and “delusional.”
The Nats aren’t going to give Boras stalking-horse leverage as they did with Teixeira. The desperate Nats of the Jayson Werthoverpay a year ago are gone, too. After the Gio Gonzalez trade, they project to be solidly above .500. GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson will hit “repeat” any time you want to hear their views on their mob scene at first base. Prince who?