The Fall Out from the Mauer Signing

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The Fall Out from the Mauer Signing

I saw a post on mlbtraderumors.com today wondering whether the Mauer signing will effect Prince Fielder when he comes up for free agency.  I think it will, and Carl Crawford’s next contract as well.

In a certain way, Fielder reminds me of Mauer as a potential free agent.  Both established themselves as major league regulars at age 22, both hit a ton, and both are not good risks physically on a long-term contract.

Fielder is too big, and Mauer is too big for a catcher.  They’re both likely to have major injury problems once they pass age 30.  You can move Mauer to first base eventually, but where do you move Fielder?

DH, I guess, but at his likely weight at age 31, he’s going to have injury problems even if all he does is hit.  Both espn.com and si.com list Prince at 5′11″ and 268 lbs, and he doesn’t turn 26 until May 9th.

Needless to say, Prince’s blood lines don’t help either.  His father Cecil was a much taller man at 6′3″, but he was renowned in his MLB days for occasionally tipping the scales at 300 lbs.

Fielder clearly doesn’t have the same value to the Brewers that Mauer has to the Twins.  Mauer is THE FRANCHISE PLAYER for the Twins, probably comparable in this regard only to Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew in Twins history.  As someone somewhere said since the signing was announced (how’s that for alliteration?), the $184 million deal Mauer just received means that Mauer goes into the Hall of Fame in a Twins uniform.

Fielder rubs some people the wrong way.  Like the Giants — Barry Zito plunked him this Spring for hitting a game winning homerun against the Giants late last season.

That wasn’t the beef.  Instead, when he reached home plate, he touched one of his gathered teammates, and they all fell down like bowling pins.   Any old schooler will tell you that’s bush, and the Giants are in many ways an old-school team.   You earn an ouchie for that every time.

Also, Fielder has to compete with Ryan Braun as the Brewers’ franchise player.  If I had to guess, I’d say that Braun is the one the Brewers keep.

Part of that has to do with the fact that Scott Boras represents Prince Fielder.  That pretty much means that Fielder, once he becomes a free agent is going to go to the highest bidder.  That almost certainly won’t be the Brewers.

My guess is that one of the eight or twelve wealthiest teams in MLB signs Fielder to contract similar to the one Mauer just got or at least similar to the one Mark Texiera got, provided, of course, he stays healthy up to the time he reaches free agency.  The national economy is on the rise again and should be better in two off-seasons than it is today.

Because of his size, Fielder may only be able to command a six- or seven-year deal.  Still, I expect he’ll command a number similar to Mauer’s $23 million per.

Carl Crawford is an interesting comparison to Mauer and Fielder.  More than one report says that the Yankees have serious hot-pants for Crawford, and I can certainly see why.

I wasn’t a huge Crawford fan when he first came up, because his on-base percentages weren’t high enough.  However, he’s had OBPs between .348 and .364 three of the last four seasons, and at that level he’s hard not to like.

Aside from his base-stealing ability (generally 50+ stolen bases per season at a career 81.9% rate), he’s got a little pop which is likely to improve as he gets older, and fangraphs has rated him as the best defensive leftfielder in all of MLB by a wide margin three of the last four years.  It would have been four of the last five years, but in 2005 Coco Crisp, a true centerfielder, spent most of the year in left.

BTW, my suspicions about fangraphs’ UZR rating are typified by Carl Crawford.  According to fangraphs, in the years 2003-2006, 2008 and 2009, Crawford had UZR ratings in leftfield of 14.5, 20.1, 15.3, 9.6, 19.6 and 17.6.  In 2007, his UZR rating was -1.2.

2007 was a year in which Crawford appears to have had minor injuries which limited him to 143 games played.  Perhaps he was hurting a little all year long, but his offensive numbers sure don’t show it.  With the bat, it was very much a season that fits in with his career progression, and he stole 50 in 60 attempts.

However, fangraphs would have you believe that he went from being far and away the best defensive left-fielder in baseball before and after to slightly below average that one season.  Anything is possible, but it’s certainly suspicious.

Anyway, there are a lot of things to like about Carl Crawford’s game, and he’s a good bet on a long-term contract because guys who run as well as he does generally age well.  Also, he would be a good fit on the Yankees.  The Yankees in recent years have largely chosen offense over defense in the field (Derek Jeter, ARod and Robinson Cano all play their respective positions because they can rake, not because they can pick it).

BTW, fangraphs says that Derek Jeter was an above-average shortstop at age 35 last season, after being basically the worst defensive shortstop in the AL every season of the current century.  I mean, it’s possible, but it’s highly suspicious.

Yankee pitchers could sure use Carl Crawford in left field.  If the Yankees are dead-set on signing him, it is unlikely that Crawford will play coy.  Crawford’s been around long enough that I don’t think he’ll have any problems on the biggest stage, and an awful lot of young baseball players dream of winning World Series after World Series for the Yankees.  I’d be surprised if Crawford isn’t one of them, particularly with the Yankees willing to pay that prime-time premium.

Maybe Crawford doesn’t get $180 million, but if the Yankees are that set on signing him, it will probably be pretty close.


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