|Fielder a Better Choice over Pujols||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on November 09, 2011
For the first time in a long while, two of the highest profile players at their position -- Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder -- will both be free agents.
The first basemen will certainly command multi-year contracts worth well over $100 million, if not more depending on the number of years.
If teams vying for each player's services had a limitless budget, Pujols would seem like the logical choice. "The Machine" has been just that over the last decade, putting up record-breaking numbers over that time.
Though Fielder has played in the shadow of Pujols in the NL Central, Prince's resume isn't too shabby.
One thing is certain about these players: If they're healthy, they will hit. It's almost a lock to say that every year, Pujols and Fielder will hit 40-plus home runs and drive in 100-120 runs. They are feared hitters in the middle of any batting order, and they can seriously enhance a team's lineup -- if that team is willing to fork over the cash.
Pujols has a distinct advantage over Fielder defensively. He is a rock at first base and would have racked up more than just two Gold Gloves had it not been for the slick-fielding Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Helton at first base in the NL for all those years.
Now, Fielder does have a .993 fielding percentage, but the range just isn't there. Fielder is a hefty individual, which comes in handy as he's crushing home runs but limits his defensive mobility.
Age could be a factor in a choice between the two sluggers. Though he has shown no signs of slowing down whatsoever, Pujols is 31, and if he's commanding a 10-year deal like it's been rumored, that might be a tall order. Meanwhile, Fielder is just 27 and is in the prime of his career. He would be wise to seek a four- or five-year deal, so that he will be able to test the waters of free agency again when he's Pujols' age.
In addition to age, durability comes into question, especially concerning Fielder. He's listed generously at 275 pounds. However, Fielder has his track record on his side. He has only missed one game total in the past three seasons and has not appeared in less than 157 games in any of his six full seasons. He has never been on the disabled list either. This is a key negotiating tool, especially when dealing with a long-term contract.
Though Pujols would not be considered injury-prone by any means, he has had a few stints on the disabled list. He missed 15 games this season due to a wrist injury, but he returned at a torrid clip that carried through the season and the postseason, ultimately resulting in a World Series title.
So the facts are there: Pujols or Fielder would be a great catch for any team wanting to revamp its offense. You really can't go wrong with either talent-wise, but from an availability standpoint, Fielder might be the best option.
Pujols has gained "god-like" status, while Fielder is still "just" a superstar. A 10-year deal for Pujols wouldn't be as much of a stretch as the same deal for Fielder. Teams may be skeptical in committing to a player for that long, so the market for Fielder may blossom more than that for Pujols.
In all likelihood, Pujols will wind up back with the Cardinals. The team just won the Fall Classic but lost manager Tony LaRussa to retirement. They would be wise to appease the player that has carried the team to two World Series titles in the past six seasons.
Fielder's new home, on the other hand, remains a mystery. The Brewers may not be able to "step up to the plate" and meet his contract demands. Expect the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers all to be major players, and possibly some other teams as well.
Pujols and Fielder are the marquee players available, so when these chips fall, it will dictate the rest of the offseason.