Over the last 12 hours or so, I’ve been getting a bunch of questions from people via Twitter and email about the surprising last sentence in this Bruce Levine ESPN report claiming the Cubs have interest in Prince Fielder:
The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly the main suitors for Fielder at this point, with the Cubs still in the running.
Uh… huh. That sort of comes out of nowhere, right, especially when it comes from a Chicago radio host – granted, the same one who was the first on Aramis Ramirez signing in Milwaukee – and buried in a throwaway line in a story that’s mainly about the Cubs? Sure, that may have been an outside possibility before the Dodgers dropped nearly $17m in 2012 salary on the collection of busted veterans we’ve discussed so many times, not to mention the ~$13m that Juan Uribe & Matt Guerrier will collect, plus the ~$6m James Loney will get in arbitration. Now? Please, and even if it was possible, I feel like that’s something we just might have heard about.
If anything, it seems clear that the market for Fielder isn’t developing like he and Scott Boras had hoped. Big spenders like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Phillies are all set at first base, while the financial difficulties of the Dodgers and Mets are well-known. Clearly, the Angels are no longer in need of a first baseman, while the Cardinals seem content with using Lance Berkman and/or Matt Adams to replace Albert Pujols, and there’s conflicting reports on whether the Cubs are even interested.
All of which leaves Fielder without a ton of great options. Seattle’s desperate for offense, but moving to a bad team in a huge park without any other offensive support outside of Dustin Ackley doesn’t seem appealing; Washington can’t get anyone to take their money and Texas & Miami reportedly don’t plan to bid. So yeah, it behooves Boras to start coming up with his famous “mystery team” just to try to goose the market, and no, despite what appears in the unsourced rumors, let’s not pretend that the Dodgers really have a prayer in this.
For the record, I do think that Fielder probably does see Los Angeles as a good fit, because it just makes so much sense. Go to Hollywood, play with your good friends Matt Kemp & Tony Gwynn – not to mention former teammates Jerry Hairston & Chris Capuano – and help rescue a floundering franchise that might be just one big bat away from making some noise? I get it – I do. I just think we all know that there’s no way the money is still there after the underwhelming shopping spree the Dodgers have already went on – so let’s not get our hopes up, okay?
(That said… it’s 22 degrees out where I am, so let’s spitball a completely ludicrous thought experiment. Loney would have just about no value on the trade market, but tendering him isn’t exactly the end of the story. There is a little-known and rarely-used option for a team to walk away from an arbitration decision before Opening Day, with the club owing the player just 30 or 45 days of pro-rated salary depending on when in the spring it happens. It gets sticky, because it has to be based on performance & not economics, and the last time I can remember it happening, the union filed a grievance against the Padres when they whacked Todd Walker in 2007. That makes for the one time ever where spring training stats actually mean something, and is probably even less likely than the idea that Frank McCourt could try to hang onto the team, though if a portly first baseman should happen to land in the Dodgers’ laps on a massively-backloaded deal, that is one option to get rid of Loney despite the tender. Again though, that’s thinking out loud – Fielder’s not coming.)