After the 2011 baseball season ended, the baseball world turned to watch the free agency pool and what would happen with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. When Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million contract on Dec 8, 2011, it was widely believed that Pujols had set the course for Prince Fielder's eventual contract. And, in all honesty, I believed it was a positive thing for Fielder to have Pujols sign first, increasing Fielder's per year value.
This may have backfired on Prince, giving him the idea of a contract that may be out of reach. The only thing that Fielder really had on Pujols was that he was younger than Pujols. Fielder cannot compete with the career numbers of Pujols, and to be honest, Pujols is in much better physical shape than Fielder is and probably will ever be.
It is now a month and a half later and Fielder still finds himself jobless. Fielder most recently met with the Texas Rangers, but it seems highly unlikely they will sign Fielder at the money he is looking for, or the length of contract he desires.
Texas just dropped a ridiculous amount of money on Yu Darvish, the Japanese ace was signed for a six-year, $60 million deal. The icing on the cake was the $51.7 million fee the Rangers had to front to gain the rights to negotiate with Darvish. So now, with the talks with Texas apparently halted, where is Fielder going to spend the 2012 season?
Here are a couple of teams that seem to have the perfect fit for Fielder.
As a diehard Cubs fan, I waiver on deciding if I want Fielder or not. Fielder shows great promise as a ballplayer, but let's be honest. The length and size of contract Fielder is looking for brings back awful memories of one player in recent Cubs history: Soriano. All we want is to dump that contract, and I could not imagine Fielder bombing and having to deal with both of them.
What makes the Cubs look like the front-runner, at this time, is that today word got out that their first baseman Carlos Pena signed a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The depth chart for the Cubs, going into the 2012 season, is dismal at best. Bryan LaHair is, at this time, their starting first baseman, which will not suffice given his 20 R, three HR, .269 AVG in 201 ABs last year. The Cubs, now losing Pena, have very little power hitting on the team, and will need to do something to remedy this if they wish to compete in the strong NL Central.
Poor Oakland has hit a rough patch in the past five years. In the time span of 2000 to 2006, Oakland never finished lower than second in the AL West, and made five trips to the postseason in the same period. Since then, Oakland has failed to exceed a .500 record in a season, resulting in no playoff appearances.
To see such a great franchise fall so quickly is so sad, and they need to make some major moves to compete with the Texas Rangers in the upcoming years. Brandon Allen currently is the No. 1 first baseman on the depth chart, but his .200 average and 18 RBI are bleak stats to bring to the role.
While Fielder would boost a rather powerless offense in Oakland, the recent rumors would dispel any interest in Fielder. The A's are not only pursuing Jonny Gomes at this time, but also the troublesome Manny Ramirez. If they do decide to sign both, there will be no room for a salary such as Fielder's.
Where will Prince Fielder play in 2012?
Losing Mark Reynolds to the Orioles meant giving up one of the few power options the Diamondbacks had up to the 2010 season. The 2012 season doesn't show much promise in the first base position in Arizona, the three players in the depth chart total 19 HR and none of the three boasted an average above .250.
Fielder would bring back the power at first base, joining Justin Upton and Chris Young as the big bats. It will depend on the size of available payroll to Diamondbacks have available to Fielder if this would even be considered.
The Nationals are the media's front-runner for landing Fielder, as there has been much speculation to him either playing in Washington or Texas. With Texas appearing to be stepping away, Washington should be able to swoop in and grab him.
Washington has the potential to put together a good run in 2012 with a power bat like Fielder. If not, it appears first baseman duty will fall on Adam LaRoche, who hit .172 with three HR in 2011. Numbers that don't even compare to what Fielder can bring. Regardless, the Nationals will need to sign someone big if they wish to compete with the Phillies and Braves in the NL East.
The Padres are the second NL West team on this list that could benefit from the play Fielder could bring. The Padres are in the process of rebuilding, and have a long way to go to compete with the Diamondbacks and Giants in the division.
Prince Fielder could bring the offensive power the Padres need, but may not take him given their depth chart at first base. Jesus Guzman and Yonder Alonso, one and two on the depth chart, hit .312 and .330, respectively. The two lack the power that Fielder could bring, though, and they could eventually move one or both to the outfield.
The Seattle Mariners have no power in their hitting. The highest HR count on their team in 2011 came from catcher Miguel Olivo. Seattle doesn't have many large contracts, mostly funds dedicated to Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki, so they could potentially swing a contract like the one Prince Fielder is eyeing. They need the big bat somewhere on the field.
At this point, Justin Smoak will be the starting first baseman, with 38 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI and a .234 AVG in 2011. Fielder, if his overall physical shape gets in the way of his defensive play, could eventually be one of the best designated hitters in the league. This is something a National League team cannot offer him.
The Pirates won't sign Fielder, and their placement on this list is just for respect that the Pirates need and want Fielder. Their payroll is one of the lowest in the MLB, and using that much of the room on the payroll would be detrimental to the rest of the team. They will be starting Garrett Jones in 2012.
While I had toyed with the idea of the Blue Jays, Tigers or Brewers being potential suitors of Fielder, it seemed that their current payroll and current lineup didn't need Prince Fielder as much as the above teams. But, we are still left with the burning question—where will Prince Fielder play in 2012?