A new report suggests that, if free agent first baseman Prince Fielder had his druthers, he would be a Chicago Cub in 2012.
According to Newsday’s Ken Davidoff, Fielder wants to wind up with the Cubs, in part because of his excellent numbers at Wrigley Field (.298/.424/.579 – insert your joke about facing Chicago Cubs pitching), and in part because of the proximity of two airports with direct flights to his home in Florida. You can probably toss in Cubs manager Dale Sveum, Fielder’s hitting coach in Milwaukee, as another reason Prince would like to come to Chicago.
But, of course, Fielder’s desire to come to the Cubs is immaterial if the Cubs aren’t, themselves, willing to pony up a reasonable contract offer. And, even then, Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, will strongly encourage Fielder to take the best available offer, regardless of location.
As for whether the Cubs are pursuing Fielder, Davidoff doesn’t think they are. But Bruce Levine is now reporting, as assertively as he has all Winter, that the Cubs are genuinely interested in Fielder, and are “working very hard under the radar to bring him in.”
Knowing the way Bruce reports rumors, I can say with the utmost confidence that he has been told by a reliable Chicago Cubs source that the Cubs are actively pursuing Prince Fielder. That means one of two things: (1) the Cubs actually are actively pursuing Prince Fielder; or (2) the Cubs want the world to believe they’re actively pursuing Prince Fielder (perhaps to put pressure on a team like the Padres to make a deal for Anthony Rizzo (i.e., “pull the trigger on our offer for Rizzo now, because if we land Fielder, the deal’s off”)). Both are plausible. One is true. Your guess is as good as mine as to which.
As for the ongoing Matt Garza trade saga, and the seeming incongruity between, on the one hand, pursuing a big-time free agent like Prince Fielder, and, on the other hand, trading away one of the team’s best players, Jon Heyman suggests no such incongruity exists. Indeed, Heyman says the Cubs are pursuing Fielder even in the midst of a rebuild, but simply will not go after Fielder “at all costs.”
This squares with something I’ve said since the outset of the offseason: because of Fielder’s age and the lack of a long-term, in-house first base option (and the dearth of top hitters on the market in the next couple years), Fielder could be a part of a quick turnaround rebuild. Trading Matt Garza, with the right return and the right use of the salary saved, could also be a part of a quick turnaround (a year or two) rebuild.
The point is and always has been: signing Fielder is as much about 2013 and beyond as it is about 2014. If the Cubs can get him on a short-term (five-ish years) deal on their terms, they’ll strongly consider it. And, if Fielder is as desirous of coming to the Cubs as it seems, they’d be wise to hold firm to their limited offer.