It’s important to make that message perfectly clear at the outset of discussions about one of the top free agents on the market this Winter. It can be superficially attractive to jump to unrealistic and unfounded conclusions when you’ve got the kind of connection Sveum and Fielder have, so, before discussing that connection and what it could mean to the Cubs, it is important to place yourself in the right frame of mind.
So, again: Prince Fielder is not going to choose to come to the Chicago Cubs solely because Dale Sveum is now the manager of the Cubs.
But, as I’ve said, Sveum now being in Chicago is not completely meaningless when it comes to Fielder. Before concluding just how meaningful Sveum’s presence actually is to Fielder, two questions are necessary: are Theo and Jed going to pursue Fielder? and can Sveum help make landing him possible?
To the latter question first, Sveum was asked about his relationship with Fielder, and how that might impact his new team’s offseason plans.
Primarily, Sveum is a huge Fielder fan.
“Prince and I have a great relationship,” Sveum said. “I love Prince to death. It would be nice to have him at first base because of what he brings to the table every single day.”
And it’s not just Fielder’s production that Sveum likes. He likes the way Fielder plays the game. “It’s nice to watch a guy play and want to play every single day. He hits the ball, [and] he’s running as hard as he can. He pops up to the infield, [and] he runs, every single day. It’s not like he takes the day off.”
But, get the meat, Dale. Can you help get Fielder to the Cubs?
“Yeah, if it ever came to [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] and the Ricketts family thinking that that was the right fit and the right time for this organization, I think me being here would definitely help the process,” Sveum conceded.
Swell. But, if the Cubs aren’t planning to pursue Fielder, the Sveum connection is merely academic. Obviously Theo and Jed aren’t going to come out and say they’re looking to sign Fielder, but Jed did tip his hand ever so slightly. First, he spoke generally of the Cubs’ plans.
“I think we are now in the mode of the offseason where we’re starting to look at players,” Hoyer said on Friday. “We had a lot of conversations with agents and a lot of conversations with teams [at the GM meetings]. But we are not close on anything. We know what we want. Now it’s a question of continuing some of those conversations to a conclusion.”
Hoyer no doubt intended to remain general when asked about Prince Fielder, but may have hinted at interest.
“He’s a great player,” Hoyer said. “He provides a ton of production and that goes without saying. Dale [Sveum] has great respect for him. As for whether we will be involved, we can’t comment. But I think he fits anyone’s team, especially anyone that needs a first baseman.”
If that last sentence is not his way of saying, “yeah, he’s an awesome bat at first base, which kind of happens to be exactly what we need,” then I don’t know how else he could have said it. In other words, the Cubs are at least a little bit interested.
So, where does that leave things?
The money. The money. The money.
It’s still all about the money. The latest reports have Prince wanting eight years and $200 million. The Cubs are not going to give him that kind of contract – some other team might, but the Cubs aren’t going to match it. And, if some team gives him that kind of money, the entire discussion about Dale Sveum’s influence fades behind the rising smoke from all of the $100s Fielder can use to light his cigars (also made of $1oos).
If, however, the Cubs want Fielder, and are willing to keep their offer within striking distance of the top offer, then maybe the prospect of staying with Sveum will help break a tie in Fielder’s mind.