While I may not yet be ready to begin discussing the NLCS outcome, I am more than ready to begin looking at where our pudgy first baseman might land next season. We all know that Prince is not coming back. By signing Fielder to the deal he wants, it would ultimately doom the franchise for the foreseeable future. This will be one of the hottest topics to discuss during this off-season. Part of why I am writing this, is to see if my thoughts on this matter change over the coming weeks.
Everyone has their own opinions on the matter, and this is no different. There are teams that I think would be prime contenders, but it’s possible that no one else agress with or believes me. However, I looked at several key factors; 1) Teams with money to spend 2) Teams that need a first baseman 3) Teams history in the free-agent market 4) Teams division strength.
Based on those four factors, there are 3 teams that are serious players and 2 teams that I think could surprise us.
Front-Runner — Chicago Cubs
This kills me inside, but here we go.
The Cubs are bad. They are bad for several reasons, but mostly for over-paying average players. Just look at this seasons top 5 salaries; Alfonso Soriano ($19 mil), Ryan Dempster ($14 mil), Aramis Ramirez ($14 mil), Carlos Pena ( $9.9 mil), and Matt Garza ($5.9 mil). Both Ramirez and Pena are doubtful to be back next season, which immediately wipes $24 million dollars from their pay roll. It also opens up first base. You may not have heard this, but Theo Epstein is taking over the Cubs front office. He is a notorious money spender, thanks to his time in Boston. The Red Sox payroll in 2011 was over $160 million. This is a perfect storm for the city of Chicago. Cubs fans hate Prince Fielder…now, but I can assure you that will change once he starts launching balls out of Wrigley. The Cubs already have a long history of over-spending for mid-level talent, so imagine what Epstein and company are going to throw at Fielder. This is a division that needs no introduction, because it is our division. If this deal were to happen, I liken it to Favre signing with the Vikings. All of the good Fielder did in Milwaukee, will be forgotten the first time he steps into Miller Park wearing that ugly ass Cubs jersey.
Contract Estimate: 6 yrs. / $205 million
Silver Medalist — Miami Marlins (yes that is the correct name now, so get used to it)
This one may seem a little far fetched, but believe me it is not.
The Marlins are going to have a new lease on life next season. It starts with new skipper Ozzie Guillen, then the new stadium being built, and a roster full of young talent making minimal amounts of money. Marlins management is looking to give people something to come and watch at the new ballpark, and while guys like Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton are nice…Fielder would put a lot more fans in the stands. The truth is, the Marlins could offer Fielder $30 million per season and still have a lower salary cap than the Brewers did this past season. In fact, just a few days ago the Marlins turned in a cap to the MLB offices in the $86 million range. For those playing along at home, that is exactly $30 million dollars higher than the 2011 payroll. While this organization is not known for it’s splashy free-agency signing, I look at the acquisition of Guillen and that smells alot like a change in philosophy to me. New coach, new stadium, and a new marketable star. Could Prince take his talents to South Beach?
Contract Estimate — 7 yrs / $210 million
Bronze Medalist — Seattle Mariners
This is not because I live in Seattle.
The Mariners have something that no other team in baseball has, Jack Zduriencik. You might be saying to yourself, “That name sounds familiar”. It should. Jacky Z was the Brewers Director of Scouting from 1998 to 2006. Which means that Jack was the one who scouted and drafted Prince, Rickie, Braun, Hart, Gallardo, and so on. Today, Zduriencik is the GM of the Seattle Mariners baseball. The season before Jack arrived in Seattle, the Mariners were the first team in history to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll. Today that payroll is done to around $86, but with disasters like Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins potentially coming off the payroll (Bradley for sure and it sounds like Figgins is on his way out too)…a lot of money is going to be available in the city of Starbucks and seafood. Plus, the home of the Mariners, Safeco Field, was built specifically for Ken Griffey Jr. Mr. Griffey also happened to be a powerful left handed slugger. This deal would not only make sense, but probably help to make the Mariners organization relevant again. The Mariners have the money, the boss-man already knows Prince, and this city embraces winners with no questions asked.
Contract Estimate — 5 yrs/ $160 million
Dark-Horse — Toronto Blue Jays
This is one that I would like to see, nothing more.
If Prince is going to leave Milwaukee, I want him to go somewhere were he is not a threat to me, but he is a threat to the Yankees and Red Sox 16 times a year. Toronto makes more sense to me than Baltimore. Can you imagine Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder batting 3 and 4? Braun and Fielder was potent, but Bautista and Fielder would be baseball poetry. The only problem with this theory is that the Blue Jays do not spend a lot of money, in fact they usually are trading away talent before they can ask for more money. The odds of this happening are probably about as good as the odds of him re-signing with the Brewers. However, if there is going to be one team to sneak up on us while we least expect it, it sort of has to be the only Canadian team right?
Contract Estimate — 5 yrs / $125 million
Participation Ribbon — Arizona D’Backs
This would royally piss me off.
All of a sudden this is a team that guys are going to want to play for. Thanks to winning the NL West, my guess is that they probably have a little more spending money then they are used to. Aaron Hill made $5 million this season, but he is on a team option for next year. Lyle Overbay is a free-agent, so that is another $5 million off the books. Pitcher Zach Duke is another $4.25 million on a mutual option for next year. Just on those three players alone, you have another $15 million dollars to play with. This another case of pairing Prince with a solid #3 hitter in Justin Upton. I am sure that Kirk Gibson will be laying awake at night dreaming of all the pitches Upton will get from opposing pitchers with Prince batting behind him. While this possibility seems as far fetched as any, keep the following in mind; The picked up Overbay to help at 1st base, the pitching staff is solid and stable, they will have money available to spend, and they are a true contender for next year. Also remember, who among you thought that Jayson Werth was going to sign with the Nationals? I bet the answer to that question is no one.
Contract Estimate — 7 yrs / $170 million
Again, this article is based on my opinion and what I see at the moment. Things change so quickly in baseball. I just wanted to document this now, so that if I happen to be right I can look back at this article and feel like a magician of some kind.
Hope everyone is doing better today than yesterday. Next week, I have decided we will begin the grieving process on Monday. Colin and I will both be spewing forth our pain and anguish from the end of the season. Once that is out of our system, the entire staff of RtB will be sharing our most favorite moments of the 2011 season. The next few weeks are going to be so much fun that it should be illegal.