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Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on December 19, 2011
Heading into this offseason, the two highly coveted free agent targets were first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Debates swirled about who would be a better signing based on the longevity and money value of a contract.
Well, Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, effectively ending the Pujols vs. Fielder debate. Fielder is now the best available offensive player on the market, and the rumors about his new destination should start springing up.
Pujols was the ultimate prize all along. What looked like a two-team race between the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals wound up with a mystery team -- the Angels -- swooping in and making the big signing.
It was unlikely that Fielder would sign before Pujols, since Boras wanted to base Fielder's demands on what Pujols received. And that's exactly what will now happen.
Though questions of his weight have clouded his career, Fielder has proved all his doubters wrong. He's appeared in at least 157 games in each of his six full seasons, including being the only player to play in all 162 games in 2011.
Boras will likely seek an eight-year deal worth upwards of $200 million. Given the deal to Pujols, these figures are by no means outlandish.
As of now, five teams have shown interest in Fielder: the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers. The Milwaukee Brewers, Fielder's old team, appear to be officially out of the race, especially with the recent signing of third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a three-year, $35.5 million deal.
Of the prospective teams, the Cubs desperately need an offensive jolt. The team also needs something to be excited about heading into 2012, and luring Fielder to Wrigley Field would certainly change the otherwise dull atmosphere.
The question of how serious teams like the Blue Jays and Mariners are in the Fielder sweepstakes remains to be seen. Toronto is said to be heavily involved in the bidding for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. The posting fee is expected to be around $55 million, with an additional $75 million allotted to a five or six-year deal. Can the Blue Jays afford Darvish and Fielder?
The one thing that these smaller-market AL teams could possibly offer is more years. While he's just 27 now, Fielder may lose some of his mobility at first base as his contract plays out. By the time he's 32 or 33, he may be relegated to a full-time DH role, something he'd be able to do in the AL.
The Rangers already have tons of offense, but the one hole in their lineup is at first base. Though the Rangers are the two-time defending AL champions, they have trailed behind the Angels in receiving the bulk of the attention in the AL West. Texas may attempt to hold onto its divisional dominance by adding Fielder. That would easily make for one of the most feared lineups in the league (maybe even better than the New York Yankees').
Of all the teams bidding for Fielder, the Nationals present the most interesting case. Washington is definitely a team on the rise, and its ownership has shown that the franchise isn't afraid to spend the big bucks. Just look at the seven-year, $126 million contract for Jayson Werth, who had maybe three good years in his career before he signed.
With young budding stars like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper likely to become household names, Fielder may see a great opportunity in D.C. The Nationals just lost out on adding C.J. Wilson, so the team is still looking to make an offseason splash.
Expect the Fielder rumor mill to be churning during the holiday season. A team would love to check off Field from its wish list. In addition to providing offensive punch, he'd also make a great Santa Claus during holiday parties.