Query whether, in the face of rampant rumors that the Chicago Cubs are looking to unload, obsessing about Prince Fielder’s 2012 destination is a worthwhile endeavor. Given his age – 27 – it remains plausible, if not likely, that the Cubs will consider pursuing Fielder even as they rebuild. And the national pundits continue to list the Cubs among Fielder’s most likely suitors. Is that reflective of information they’ve received from anyone other than Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, though? Hard to know.
Speaking of Mr. Boras, it seems like he’s finding tough sledding in trying to secure a blockbuster contract for his big-time free agent first baseman. Just listen to how hard he’s working to “sell” teams on Fielder.
“When Prince Fielder came to Milwaukee, check out the first year, what they were drawing,” Boras said when asked what was taking so long for Fielder to sign. “Then, when you see that number [2.21 million], see what they’re drawing now in Milwaukee [3.07 million]. And they’ve also got a new [local] TV contract . . . Look at where the franchise was then, and where it is now.
“You absolutely see two factors with superstar sluggers — they bring retention value and attraction value. Retention value — look at [Rickie] Weeks, [Corey] Hart, [Yovani] Gallardo. They all stayed in Milwaukee. When you have that guy in the middle of the lineup, it’s, ‘Oh yeah, I want to play with him.’ Jeff Kent won an MVP hitting behind Barry Bonds. Ryan Braun won an MVP hitting in front of Fielder. That’s the modality.
“. . . [A player like Fielder] gets you the [local] TV contract, he gets you a higher franchise value, your attendance goes up . . . These players pay for themselves. They make you a lot of money. Owners understand that. They reach out to you. Prince is not in any way a normal free agent. Owners will move players off their teams that already occupy positions to get him. Even though they have a player at the position, this is the move to bring in a franchise player.”
I’m not saying Boras is wrong – there are some kernels of truth in that hard sell – but, man, oh man: he’s working hard. And it’s obvious that he’s not seeing the offers that he’d like to see.
And Boras continued, seeming to speak directly to teams like the Mariners and Orioles (and, dare I say, Cubs?), who might not yet be ready to compete, but could be there in a couple years.
“Prince covers all the spectrums. You don’t just have to be a competitive team now [to sign him]. You can be a club that will be competitive in a couple of years. If you sign this player, it will always be a good investment, no matter what position you’re in.”
In other words: Prince and I recognize that the “win now” teams might not be willing to pony up the eight to ten year deal we want, but maybe some of you bottom-feeders can swoop in. It’s about the money, after all.
Boras continued from there, explaining why it is necessary for owners to meet with Fielder before making a final offer, and talking about Fielder’s surprising leadership ability. He’s an agent who always works hard for his clients, but I’m not sure I’ve previously seen such a confluence of (a) a big-time client, (b) a dearth of rumored offers, and (c) Boras publicly extolling the virtues of the big-time client so loudly.
It seems clear that there is a significant disconnect between what Boras thinks Fielder should get in a contract, and what teams are willing to offer. Usually Boras gets one team to step up – it only takes one – but maybe this time is different. Maybe Boras will find that the market stays soft, and no matter how many praises he sings, he’ll have to recommend that Fielder take a shorter-term deal.