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Finding the right spot for Fielder

6/15/2011



Here are the top seven teams that should pursue Prince Fielder come November, when he can become a free agent:

1. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are the best fit for Prince Fielder. Peter Angelos, the Orioles' owner, has not spent the money on a big time free agent since hiring team president Andy MacPhail. He’s allowed MacPhail to build the team the right way, which takes time, patience, understanding and, most importantly, vision. They are getting there in a hurry. With the recent draft of Dylan Bundy, the Orioles now have a future top of the rotation of Zach Britton, Bundy and Brian Matusz. The Orioles drafted shortstop Manny Machado last year with the second overall pick in the draft. He is a future two-way star, and with catcher Matt Wieters and center fielder Adam Jones, they will give the O’s a strong up-the-middle team. If the Orioles can now sign a young, impact middle-of-the-order bat such as Fielder, they will be well on their way to becoming legitimate contenders. Fielder's daily positive energy and 40-50 home runs will be a difference-maker for the Orioles' offense.

2. Los Angeles Angels

Angels GM Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia are frustrated with the lack of offense in the middle of their lineup. They have a solid rotation and above-average defense, but they need impact bats that can drive in 100 runs. They hope Kendrys Morales comes back next year, but they can’t count on it. If he does, he can always DH. The Angels missed out on Mark Teixeira in free agency to the Yankees a few years ago, and they lost out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this past offseason. They need to make a statement this offseason, and they have the ownership's backing to do it. Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder would change the face of the franchise.

3. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs' rebuilding program will be interesting to watch, and a Prince Fielder signing could be part of it. Fielder is only 27 years old, and when the Cubs are ready to contend again, he will still be in his prime. When the Cubs signed Carlos Pena this past offseason to a one-year deal, it was obvious that they were aware that Fielder, Pujols or both could be on the free-agent market come November. The Cubs need to build the middle of their lineup, and Fielder would be a significant step forward for this offense.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers want to retain Fielder, and he wants to stay. However, I’m not sure the Brewers will be willing to match what the free-agent market will offer him. The Brewers are more likely to extend their starting pitchers than they are to re-sign Fielder. The Brewers should enjoy this special time with one of the game's best sluggers. If the fans keep filling the upper deck and the Brewers make it deep into the playoffs, maybe a miracle will happen.

5. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies signed both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to long-term deals last offseason, and I’m not sure it makes sense for them to put another position player on the books for that type of long-term commitment. However, it would be fun to see Prince hit in Coors Field for 81 games, especially in a lineup that would see him sandwiched between Tulo and CarGo. The Rockies should probably spend their money on pitching instead, but it sure is fun to dream about it if you’re a Rockies fan.

6. New York Yankees

If Prince Fielder is open to becoming a full-time DH, then he could be a long-term solution for the Yankees. Again, Fielder is only 27 and is a legitimate 40-50 home run hitter. For the Yankees to have a future middle of the lineup that includes Robinson Cano, Teixeira and Fielder, all in the 28-32 age range, would make the future declines of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter much easier to deal with. Jorge Posada should retire at the end of this season, and Fielder would be a perfect fit as the Yankees' next DH. The problem is two-fold: first, general manager Brian Cashman has said that he learned a lesson earlier in his career (i.e. with Jason Giambi) to not invest money in position players that were not two-way players; second, George Steinbrenner has passed away and his sons are unlikely to get involved again after the what have, so far, been disastrous results with Rafael Soriano. Whether Cashman or the Steinbrenner family want to pay a DH will be fascinating to watch. I also doubt that Fielder will want to become a full-time DH at age 27. My gut says there won’t be a marriage here.

7. Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals desperately need more offense. However, I doubt they will be willing to change the market with another free agent overpay like they did last year with Jayson Werth. If they’re going to spend the money again, it is more likely they spend the money on a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. If they pursue a first baseman, it’s more likely they bid on Pujols than Fielder because of the Pujols being better on defense and in better physical condition. They also owe Adam LaRoche $8 million next year. Although there is a need here, I think it’s unlikely.

The Orioles, Angels, Cubs, Brewers, Rockies, Yankees and Nationals are the best potential baseball fits for Prince Fielder. The marketplace was established the last couple of years with the signings of Carl Crawford, Werth and Matt Holliday. The cost and length of the contract for Prince should be record breaking. It will be interesting to see which teams actually decide to get involved in this bidding war.

Here is a list of the rest of the clubs and why they are not potential fits for Fielder:

NATIONAL LEAGUE CLUBS THAT PROBABLY WON’T BE A FIT FOR FIELDER

Arizona Diamondbacks -- The Diamondbacks don’t have the dollars needed to pursue.

Atlanta Braves -- Freddie Freeman is a future Gold Glove first baseman.

Cincinnati Reds -- Joey Votto is now an MVP candidate every year.

Florida Marlins -- Gaby Sanchez is one of the best young first basemen in the NL.

Houston Astros -- Brett Wallace should hit, and with power, for years to come.

Los Angeles Dodgers -- James Loney is solid at first base, and the Dodgers can’t afford Fielder.

New York Mets -- Ike Davis is one of the Mets' best young players.

Philadelphia Phillies -- Ryan Howard is their first baseman.

Pittsburgh Pirates -- No $$$$. End of conversation.

St. Louis Cardinals -- Should re-sign Pujols; if not, Berkman is cheaper.

San Diego Padres -- Anthony Rizzo is going to be a star and better defensively.

San Francisco Giants -- Brandon Belt, like Rizzo, will be San Fran's long-term solution at first.

The Cardinals could be a wild-card team here. If Pujols signs elsewhere, they could rebound with a surprise Fielder signing. If the Dodgers are sold, a new owner might want to make a splash with a Fielder or Pujols surprise. It certainly would be entertaining to watch Kemp/Fielder/Ethier in the middle of their lineup.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CLUBS THAT PROBABLY WON’T BE A FIT FOR FIELDER

Boston Red Sox -- Adrian Gonzalez will be their MVP the next several years.

Chicago White Sox -- Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn are signed long-term.

Cleveland Indians -- Indians hope Matt LaPorta starts hitting; doubt they spend $$$ here.

Detroit Tigers -- With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, Tigers won’t pursue.

Kansas City Royals -- Eric Hosmer might win a Triple Crown someday.

Minnesota Twins -- Already have long-term deals with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

Oakland Athletics -- They don’t have the stadium to generate the revenues needed to pay.

Seattle Mariners -- Justin Smoak is an up-and-coming, middle-of-the-order first baseman.

Tampa Bay Rays -- Tampa Bay wouldn’t pay Crawford, so they won’t pay Prince.

Texas Rangers -- Rangers will spend money on pitching rather than first base.

Toronto Blue Jays -- Adam Lind is quickly emerging as a star.

The Texas Rangers could be a dark horse here because they have the revenue to chase Fielder. They could move Mitch Moreland and put Fielder at first base. However, this is clearly a club that has enough offense, and their biggest need is pitching. After signing Adrian Beltre last year, I’m not sure they jump back in the market again for another long-term deal on a position player. The Mariners could surprise us, if Fielder wanted to DH, because of the connection with M’s general manager Jack Zduriencik, who drafted Fielder in Milwaukee.