By virtue of his presence on the market as the top remaining free agent – a 27-year-old free agent who plays a position of need for the Chicago Cubs – observing Prince Fielder’s movements is almost certainly going to reach obsessive levels around here. And that’s whether the Cubs are actually interested or not. So, the Obsessive Watch is here.
From late Friday until this morning, rumors linking and unlinking the Chicago Cubs to Prince Fielder have run rampant. The latest round-up:
- Peter Gammons reported late last week, mere hours after guessing Fielder would land with the Cubs, that the Cubs “do not have cash to sign Fielder.” Let’s be real: of course the Cubs have the cash to sign Fielder. If the Cubs decline to sign Fielder, it will be because they’ve decided doing so was not the best allocation of that cash – which, again, they absolutely have. Remember: two days before signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, the Angels told everyone who would listen that they had only $10 to $15 million to spend.
- Bruce Levine argues that now is the time for the Cubs to heavily pursue Fielder, and cites “industry sources” who tell him the Cubs will be in hot pursuit, together with the Rangers and Marlins (who’ve since suggested they aren’t interested). I think it’s pretty safe to include the Brewers, Mariners, Blue Jays, and Nationals, as well.
- Milwaukee writer Tom Haudricourt continues to guess – based, in part, on what hears from folks around Milwaukee, that Fielder will wind up with the Cubs.
- That Haudricourt tweet references a Joel Sherman article, which has been making the rounds. In it, Sherman canvasses executives, who guess (I’m making sure to distinguish between “guesses” and “sources” here, so take heed) that Fielder will end up with the Cubs. The rationales offered, however, are, to me, only half convincing: (1) Theo Epstein will want to make a big splash (I just don’t buy that), and (2) Epstein recognizes the lack of serious power becoming available over the next few years (that, I buy, and hope Epstein sees it that way – of course, that doesn’t mean Fielder is the only solution to this pending problem).
- Sherman adds, more concretely, that the Cubs are “definitely” bidding on Fielder. But, Phil Rogers says the Cubs “haven’t been involved heavily but the Pujols signing shows how quick that can change.” Rogers adds that the Rangers aren’t reaching out to Fielder, which strikes me as obviously incorrect.
- For my part, I’m told the Cubs have been interested in signing Fielder for some time, but there are three complicating factors: (1) the Cubs strongly prefer a five-year deal, and Fielder is likely to get offers longer than five years, (2) the Cubs have wanted to see if Kendrys Morales would be non-tendered or otherwise made available, or if other trade talks would net the Cubs a young first base option, before moving hard on Fielder, and (3) the Cubs may prefer to spend the bulk of their offseason dollars in other ways (which, I know, is a bit cloak and dagger, but that’s as far as I can go). None of these factors should be shocking, given the long-term direction the new front office wants to take.
- What about the offers out there? Reports are pretty sparse, unlike with Albert Pujols. I doubt offers have not yet been made, but nothing concrete has yet been reported. The plausible range of offers remains from as low as five years and $125 million, to as high as eight years and $200 million. Fielder’s agent isn’t offering much in the way of details, only sticking to his guns that longer is better. “I’ve had people come out [and say] ‘Oh, you ought to do a three-year deal,'” Boras said. “Well, that doesn’t fit anybody’s purposes in doing these things. The length of a contract has a lot to do with an understanding from both sides about what franchise players are and what they mean, the branding part, the whole media rights part .… All those things go into it. That initial concept is ‘the shorter the better.’ But The reality of it is, in these types of players, it’s usually is not the best dynamic for the franchise .… The great thing about young free agents is the probability of performance at optimal levels is so high for the majority of the years of the contract.”