…just so we can finally be rid of the “hey, are the Dodgers secretly trying to go after him?” rumors, ones we’ve been hearing for months and propagated again this weekend by Joel Sherman of the New York Post and T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times. Every time this comes up, Dodger fans understandably less-than-enthused by the fact that Mark Ellis and Adam Kennedy were two of the main offensive imports this winter try to contort themselves into a position where Fielder is actually the Opening Day first baseman for the Dodgers in 2012.
Over at Dodger Thoughts today, Jon Weisman links back to a piece he wrote several months ago that the Dodgers could and should sign Fielder, and there’s absolutely no argument with that from me. On the field, Fielder is a massive improvement over James Loney and would be an ideal partner for Matt Kemp. In the front office, you look at a 2012-13 free agent market that has a ton of great pitching – Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren among them – but little in the way of power bats beyond the always questionable Josh Hamilton and realize that obtaining a bat while you can is a great strategy, especially when first base (Loney) and right field (Andre Ethier) are both staffed by imminent free agents. Off the field, signing Fielder would be a huge public relations boon to a team that so clearly needs one. So no, you’ll get absolutely no pushback from me that signing Prince Fielder would be a great thing for the Dodgers, other than perhaps a slight reluctance to add a third $20m+ annual salary, assuming Clayton Kershaw will soon be at or near that level along with Kemp.
Here’s the thing, though; there’s a pretty big difference between “does it make sense” and “is there really a sliver of a prayer that this could actually happen”, and that’s where I’d argue that it really isn’t feasible. You can forget about the fact that new ownership is coming in, because as I mentioned yesterday, that’s at least three months away. Camp starts in thirty days or less for most teams, and big-ticket free agents like Fielder don’t remain unsigned after camps open – they just don’t. That means if by some miracle Fielder makes it to Los Angeles for this season, it’s going to be because Frank McCourt gives the go-ahead, not because a new owner is making it happen.
So what’s McCourt’s motivation to do that? Simers and others have argued that adding a star like Fielder would increase the sale value, but I’m not convinced it’s that simple; as we’ve seen, the club is almost certainly going to go for $1.5 billion or more, shattering the previous MLB record. This isn’t a situation where interest is lagging and McCourt has to do something to excite bidders; besides, bids are due on the club tomorrow, so unless we have an immensely entertaining evening ahead of us, potential owners are bidding on a Dodger club that does not include Prince Fielder. (Since the bids are just opening bids, they could possibly increase later if Fielder was around, but that’s no guarantee; Bill Shaikin has suggested adding a $150m+ liability could actually depress bidding.) You could argue that McCourt wants to salvage what’s left of his reputation by giving fans a big gift before he goes, but as ego-driven as he might be, I don’t think even that is going to allow him to show his face in town after all he’s done – not to mention the question of whether he’d want to be on the hook for the first two payments of Fielder’s contract in April.
Like the rest of you, I’d love to see Fielder in blue. It makes a ton of sense. It’s also increasingly tiresome to have the emotions of Dodger fans played with each time this comes up. So please, Seattle, or Washington, or Texas, or whomever else is interested, sign the man already. For all of us.