Now that Albert Pujols has sold his soul to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the biggest name left on the Free Agent market is Prince Fielder. Not that he really needs an introduction, but for anyone who has needs a refresher: the former Brewers' first baseman, and son of ex-MLB first baseman Cecil, has hit 230 home runs and recorded 656 RBI to go along with a .282 batting average over the course of 6 seasons (and 39 games).
Halfway through the 2011 season, he made it quite clear that he would not be returning to Milwaukee, and it does seem to be true that the team cannot afford to bring him back--although with this banned substance mess surrounding Ryan Braun, one wonders if the Brew Crew made the correct decision when choosing who to lock up on long-term deals.
So, team-less and in search of a 7- or 8- year contract, where will the 27 year old slugger end up? Let's run down all thirty teams (noting that American League teams have a distinct advantage because of the Designated Hitter, a position where the 275 lb Fielder will probably end up by the end of his career).
Arizona: Paul Goldschmidt, Lyle Overbay, and Geoff Blum is not the best set of first basemen in the league, but Goldschmidt did show some good potential in his rookie campaign. It has been reported that the D-backs' payroll will raise in 2012, but probably not enough to sign Fielder. With a solid team for hitting, the Diamondbacks do not seem to be the most probable fit for Fielder.
Atlanta: Freddie Freeman's first full season was a promising one and the Braves are already up to $87-million in salaries. While it has been rumoured that the team's payroll may increase for next year, first base probably is not the first place that Atlanta is looking to solidify.
Baltimore: One of the worst teams in baseball over the last decade, the Orioles begin with the distinct disadvantage of having very few players wanting to play for them. With a hole on the right corner of the infield, it must be expected that the O's will (or perhaps already have) kicked the tires, here. After throwing $8-million at an aging Vladimir Guerrero last season, it would seem that money is not too much of an issue for the Orioles. That said, it is hard to afford anything when the seats are always empty.
Boston: The Red Sox have said that they do not want to go over the cap and have to pay luxury tax. Also, with Adrian Gonzalez at first, the Sox are pretty much set. Besides, we all remember how well acquiring numerous big-name players worked out for them last year...
Chicago (AL): The ChiSox are in a rebuilding phase, so adding a player who is at his most valuable right now makes very little sense. It also seems improbable that the team would bring in a replacement for captain Paul Konerko.
Chicago (NL): With Carlos Pena gone to Free Agency, the Cubs do not have a first baseman. The team has been linked to Fielder over the past few weeks and would certainly love to have him. Chicago is rebuilding and will not be ready to compete for a few more years--this may be a turn-off for Fielder. With the sixth highest payroll in the MLB, the team does not have much room to maneuver--especially if they wish to avoid the luxury tax. If the Cubs are able to unload Carlos Zambrano--perhaps to the Marlins, a rumour which has died down, but may still have some essence of truth--they will certainly have room to sign Fielder, although they may be wary of big, long contracts after the Zambrano and Soriano incidents.
Cinncinnati: Joey Votto is the incumbent and, if they are not going to trade him--which is what they are saying right now--there is no spot for Fielder here. We cannot forget Yonder Alonso, either, who some believe may one day be as good as, if not better than, Votto.
Cleveland: Here is another team without a first baseman. Carlos Santana may move from his catcher position to first, and this does seem to be a move the team is considering. If the Indians ignored Santana's knees and left him behind the plate, they would have an opening for Fielder. With relatively little money currently invested in players for next season and an announcement of an impending payroll raise from the General Manager, the Tribe could certainly afford Fielder. With the rate at which the team has progressed in the past few years, a big bat could be just what they need. There has not been much in the way of talk about the Indians and Fielder, but the Angels did seem to fly in out of nowhere and sweep up Pujols. This is something to watch out for.
Colorado: Todd Helton and Jason Giambi must be one of the olders first base tandems in the league. While the team is likely looking for a younger player to take over when these two old-timers disintegrate, Fielder may not be the answer. In spite of their terrible record in 2011, the team does wish to contend next season, but this seems to be an unrealistic goal. While there are rumours that the team's payroll will increase, Fielder may still be a bit out of range--particularly because the Rockies have numerous other holes to fill, as well. First base is probably not the team's primary point of focus.
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera is not going anywhere. Being relatively immobile in the field, and with the DH spot filled, Cabrera will be staying at first, leaving no spot for Fielder.
Houston: Carlos Lee is getting older, but is nevertheless a solid first baseman. The Astros are arguably the worst team in baseball and adding Fielder right after having traded their two best players (Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence) does not seem to make much sense. If the team is looking to get younger, Fielder is not the way in which to do it. It also seems that the Astros are looking to go the trade route, rather than through Free Agency, to build a team. A poor team which will soon be headed from a tough division to another tough division does not seem sound like Fielder's ideal team, either. That said, the Astros are moving to the AL, so the DH option will become available.
Kansas City: Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler. If the Royals have one position where they do not need to improve, it is first base.
Los Angeles (AL): Albert Pujols, 'nuff said.
Los Angeles (NL): James Loney is not a bad first baseman, but Fielder would certainly be a great improvement. Of course, the Dodgers do still have that small issue of having no money...
Milwaukee: As was previously mentioned, the Brewers cannot afford Fielder, otherwise they would most likely have already signed him. If, however, Prince cannot get the seven year deal he wants, look for the Brew Crew to sweep in and try one last time to resign their superstar.
Miami: They have already signed everyone else this offseason; why not add one more to the list. Replacing Gaby Sanchez is something the Marlins would not hesitate to do, and to do it with Fielder would make them very happy. There have been rumours connecting Prince to the Marlins--but then again, just about every everyone has been connected to the Marlins is some way. The team certainly seems to have the money to get a deal done, and if Jose Reyes is any indication, a baffling contract may be headed Fielder's way any day now.
Minnesota: If Justin Morneau is healthy, the Twins do not need a first baseman. Also, the team has the ninth highest payroll in the league and may not be able to afford the slugger anyway. The Twins, as was proved last season, have many holes--but first base is not the first one that needs to be plugged.
New York (NL): The Mets would certainly love to have a first baseman better than Ike Davis (who is not a the worst player with whom to be stuck), but if the Mets have enough money to sign Prince, they would have used it one Jose Reyes. There is no chance that Fielder ends up here.
New York (AL): With Mark Teixeira locked up through 2016, the Yanks are not looking for a first baseman. However, they do have a hole at DH. The team is already in luxury tax territory and certainly has enough money to bring Fielder into the fold. This is one to watch as the Yanks have proved over the years that they are not afraid of spending big if it means creating a winning team.
Oakland: The Athletics would probably like an upgrade on Brandon Allen, but the team is likely looking for speed, not power. Also, the A's main issue right now is in the outfield, where all three of the team's starters from last season have gone to Free Agency.
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard may be injured, but the Phillies will give him a chance to return to his old self before they go in search of a permanent replacement. Fielder has no place here.
Pittsburgh: Garrett Jones is a solid first baseman, but Fielder would be a welcome upgrade. That said, the Pirates are still developing and may not be ready to go after a player like Prince right now. There is also some uncertainty as to how much the Bucs will be able to spend next year and it seems improbable that they will be able to give much to Fielder. First base may not be the first place where the Pirates need to look, anyway.
San Diego: They could not afford to bring back Heath Bell, so they certainly do not have enough money to entice Fielder. The Padres would probably prefer a cheap temporary player than a long-term money-eater. This is a team that needs to get worse before it can get better.
San Francisco: Aubrey Huff is a good player, but he is getting a bit old. The Giants went from winning the World Series to just missing the playoffs (well, a little more than just) in one season. Carlos Beltran could not do the trick, but maybe Fielder could. With a relatively high payroll, the Giants may not be looking to add any more big contracts. They have a little room to maneuver (about $30-million), but they may wish to use it on multiple players rather than throw it all at one.
Seattle: An upgrade for Justin Smoak would not be out of the question. There have been some rumours that the Mariners may attempt to sign Fielder, but rumours may be all they are. The team may be able to increase its payroll (this is not certain, but possible), and in that case, there would be no issues from the Mariners' end. Fielder may not wish to play for a team as poor as Seattle, however. The Mariners are not out of the question, but may not be the most probable destination for Prince's services.
St. Louis: Would the Cardinals pick up all of the money they offered to Pujols and throw it at Fielder? This is not impossible, but if it was not enough for Albert, Prince will likely decline the offer as well. Also, Pujols is a much better player than Fielder, so it is improbable that he receive even close to the same offer from the Cards. Lance Berkman is an acceptable first baseman, so the Cardinals will probably look to fill other holes before returning to first base.
Tampa Bay: The Rays are currently without a first baseman, but Fielder is not really their type of player. Tampa is full of fast players who manufacture runs--Fielder is a lumbering guy who makes runs with his bat, not on the basepaths. Besides, with no protection, Fielder would constantly be walked, becoming a baserunning liability on an otherwise fast team. There is no fit here.
Texas: Moreland is far from a sure thing and the Rangers will certainly make a push for Fielder. The team may not have enough money to sign Prince, however. As much as they would certainly love to have such a valuable asset, like the Mets, if they were able to afford Fielder, they would have spent the money on the player they knew and loved--in this case CJ Wilson--instead.
Toronto: Over the past few weeks, it has become popular belief that Prince will return to the city where his father once played. There are, however, a few problems with this theory. For one, Prince and Cecil are not on the best of terms, so it is unlikely that Prince feels any attachment to Toronto at all. Even if Prince did not care about his rift with Cecil, his father did not make his name with the Blue Jays, but with the Tigers. Another issue is the fact that the Jays have made it quite clear that they will not sign players to contracts longer than five years (Prince, of course, wants seven). The rumours that the Jays are favourites for Fielder is more likely an agent's ploy to drive up prices than a fact.
Washington: Do not count out the Nats. The team is lacking at first and is clearly not afraid to spend money (as proven by the Jayson Werth signing of last year). Werth's disappointing production may have done one of two things: made the team wary of long-term, high-money contracts, or proved that Werth needs protection in the lineup. With Werth locked up for six more years, it is more probable that the team looks towards the latter. Look for the Nationals to make a move.
So where will Fielder end up? Personally, I would pick the Yankees as a favourite, but the Indians are my sleeper pick. The Nationals cannot be discounted, either. An AL team seems a more likely destination, but there have been numerous surprises in recent years.
Where do you think Prince Fielder will sign? Please comment, as we would love to hear your ideas.