Fielder And The Dodgers?: So are the Los Angeles Dodgers officially the "mystery team" in the Prince Fielder field? Between LA Times' writer T.J. Simers' article last night entitled, "Want to boost the value of the Dodgers? Sign Prince Fielder", and New York Post writer Joel Sherman's (@JoelSherman1) tweet following last night's BBWAA dinner in which he wrote that a, "... surprising number of execs think #Dodgers will ultimately be in play for Prince Fielder," the possibility of the Dodgers' new owners, whoever they might be, making a play for (or maybe inheriting) the 27-year-old free agent first baseman is suddenly being considered. The first round of bids for the Dodgers will be submitted on Monday, and with the soon-to-be former Milwaukee Brewers' slugger still on the market the baseball world's wondering if LA might be in play?
MLB Network Radio host and former Nats' GM Jim Bowden talked about the Dodgers as a dark horse candidate a few weeks back, explaining on the show "Inside Pitch," that, "The only team that I know of that legitimately is still left on the table, albeit [at] much less than the asking price, is the Washington Nationals." "To me," the former MLB executive continued, "the Washington Nationals have a very unique and clear opportunity right now, because I'm not sure they're going to get any real competitiveness from anyone else out there unless the Dodgers were to get sold."
Bowden's comments came shortly after an MLB.com article entitled, "Boras: Prince will sign before spring's first pitch", by Barry Bloom came out quoting Fielder's agent Scott Boras explaining why it was taking so long to find a home for his biggest remaining unsigned client. "'Certainly we're going to have him signed well in advance of Spring Training,'" Boras was quoted stating in the article. Bowden said at the time that he thought Boras' comments "were a pretty loud statement" that LA was eliminated as a possibility. "If you're going to make that position," that you wanted a deal done before Spring Training starts, "then you're not using [the Dodgers] as leverage, so I don't think the new owners of LA are going to get a shot. It sounds to me like, for him to make a comment like that, certainly it gives them a month and a half, so certainly it gives them plenty of time, but I also think he feels pretty comfortable what's on the table right now is close to getting a deal done.
"He's not the kind of agent that ever wants to put a time frame [on negotiations]," Bowden argued, "He likes time to be on his side, and for him to actually, almost put a deadline on there is very unlike Scott Boras, which leads me to believe that he's got something on the table that's close enough to get it done."
As a Reuters/Chicago Tribune article entitled, "The Los Angeles Dodgers' scramble begins", by Sue Zeidler and Tom Hals this afternoon points out, MLB Commisioner Bud Selig said earlier this winter that, "... he was counting on the bankrupt team to be sold by April 30," though the ownership situation could, of course, be resolved sooner than that. LA Times' writer T.J. Simers' article last night, as the title hints, suggests that soon-to-be former Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt would have to sign Fielder as a parting gift to Los Angeles' baseball fans and a way to increase the value of the franchise for its future owners.
Scott Boras stressed on Saturday, in a New York Times' article by Tyler Kepner entitled, "Fielder’s Options Are as Narrow as His Talent Is Vast", that with a unique talent like Prince Fielder, the, "'... traditional negotiation periods are not relevant,'" and he pointed out that, "'... the timing of the negotiations should not create any inferences, positive or negative, about the status or value of Prince Fielder.'" Mr. Kepner listed the Dodgers as one of eight teams (along with the Angels, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Cubs and Mets) that he thought were out of the market this winter. The Dodgers in particular, he wrote, were, "'trapped in financial purgatory,'" and Boras talked in the article about Fielder's limited market as an opportunity for a different team than the usual suspects to add a game-changing bat:
"'It’s a rare moment of opportunity for teams, because there are normally eight clubs or so that are pursuing a young superstar player,' Boras said. 'This is an opportunity for clubs that are outside of those eight to bring that type of player to their city.'"
Fielder And the Nats?: In considering the Nationals as a possibility, the NY Times' Mr. Kepner asked why, "if [the Nationals] were so desperate for Fielder, wouldn’t they have met his demands by now?" That's at least different than the "If Fielder wanted to play in Washington, why hasn't he taken the deal?" chatter. Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this morning, in his "Sunday Baseball Notes" column that the fact that Fielder was unsigned was the biggest story of the winter. The big question, according to Mr. Cafardo, is, "Who will give Fielder seven years?":
"One AL East GM thinks it comes down to the Rangers and Nationals, with the Brewers and Cubs taking a shot if he settles for a one-year deal and elects to become a free agent again."
The idea of Fielder accepting a shorter deal so he could become a free agent again in a few years came up earlier this winter and it was shot down by Scott Boras who told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine, "'It appears some baseball people are just bored. That's when you hear ideas like that floated.'" Los Angeles Times' Dodgers beat writer Bill Shaikin too (@BillShaikin) wrote on Twitter that he'd heard that the, "... Brewers invited Fielder to return for 1 year so as to get mega-deal from new Dodgers owner next winter. Boras showed no interest." Could the Rangers or Nationals get a deal done if they were willing to go to seven years as Mr. Cafardo suggests?
• MLB Network Radio Fielder Chatter:
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick made an appearance on MLB Network Radio this afternoon talking with "Hot Stove" hosts Jim Bowden and Jeff Rickard. Asked what he was hearing about Fielder, Mr. Crasnick said he's hearing from team sources that Scott Boras has "almost probably" given up on the idea of a 10-year/$200 million dollar deal, "So, you're hearing a lot more buzz about how maybe he tries to do some sort of shorter deal, you know a 5-6 year deal with a high AAV and giving Prince an opt-out three years into it so he can go back on the market."
Commenting on the Fielder market later during the show, Jim Bowden explained that he continues to hear that the Washington Nationals have the best offer on the table for Fielder. "The problem is, it's nowhere near what Scott Boras was hoping for or what he wants. That's a problem. So now, what he does in a situation like this, he circles back to every single team and maybe opens up opportunities that had been closed." Boras, the former GM suggests, "Has to look at this and say, 'OK, I'm not going to get ten or nine years, and what I'm looking at [on] the table for seven or eight, the AAV isn't high enough.' He's looking back at it going, 'You know what, maybe I should take a five-year deal and get an opt-out after three.'"
"I think he wants the long-term deal with the no-trade, with the opt-out, which gives him his cake and eat it too," Bowden said, "And now the question is will somebody do that?" The Rangers have said all the right things since signing Darvish, with Texas' ownership saying it was unlikely they'd sign Fielder to avoid stirring up the fan base and saying they want to lock up Josh Hamilton instead, but, the former MLB executive said, "Where there's smoke, there's fire, there's smoke."
Bowden, however, also asked former Washington Senator and former Rangers' GM Tom Grieve what he thought about Fielder ending up in Texas, and Mr. Grieve said, "My gut feeling tells me, it's not going to happen,":
"The Rangers have increased their salaries almost double in the last two or three years, they're up around $120 million now, and you know, with Darvish and with the guys that they've got, with Hamilton's contract up, [Ian] Kinsler's contract's going to be up, they want to sign these guys long-term. [Nelson] Cruz is going to get a big raise. [Mike] Napoli is going to get a big raise, they want to sign him. I think with the guys they've got internally that have led them to the World Series the last couple of years, I think they try to keep their own guys. It could happen, if the price comes down, the years come down, but if it's eight or ten years and $150-$200 million, I don't see it."
So there you have it, right back where we started, the Rangers and Nationals seemingly alone in the mix and Boras and Fielder waiting for the best possible offer...and waiting...