It's only June and this is really the time to talk about the trade deadline, but one important storyline that will go from now until at least December is the future of Prince Fielder.
Fielder is going to be a free agent for the first time in his career after the 2011 season ends and it figures that he is in for a huge payday.
It's pretty obvious that Prince Fielder will not be traded to the Orioles at the trade deadline, but they are likely to be a major player in the hunt for the superstar 28 year old.
Here are five reasons why the Baltimore Orioles could be the landing spot for the powerful, young first baseman.
MASN's Amber Theoharis brought this up in an article last week. The Orioles lack an elite player that impacts the game just by being in the lineup.
Unfortunately, none of the current Orioles fit the bill. There are a few guys that are very good on the Orioles. Nick Markakis has regressed this year, but has been a great hitter with patience for the rest of his career. Adam Jones has shown that he has potential to be a Torii Hunter-like talent, but hasn't quite put it all together. Matt Wieters is also a player with massive potential that hasn't quite developed into a scary hitter.
Orioles fans know that there is talent on the roster. When Luke Scott gets hot, he becomes an elite talent that can demolish anything thrown at him, but he is inconsistent.
Prince Fielder has the necessary talent to make a pitcher think very hard before the game even starts. You have to have a gameplan to work around Fielder. He has hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last four seasons, with 50 in 2007 and 46 in 2009. He has worked hard to be patient and has had triple digit walks for two straight years.
The Yankees have Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Rays have Evan Longoria. The Blue Jays now have Jose Bautista. The Orioles need to buy a bat that can play at the same level as these big threats in the AL East.
Derrek Lee is on a one year deal in Baltimore that he only took because there were no other options out there. He hasn't performed well offensively and will not be back in 2012.
The market for first basemen in 2012 is filled with talent. Albert Pujols will lead the pack, but likely be resigned by the St. Louis Cardinals. Prince Fielder is the next best on the board.
While the Orioles will miss Derrek Lee's glove, Prince Fielder is actually pretty good defensively and would fill first base for a long time. If his range becomes an issue toward the end of the deal, the DH spot is available because the Orioles are in the AL.
When Mark Teixeira hit the free agent market in 2008, the Orioles were considered to be a serious candidate because Teixeira was a hometown hero.
The Orioles reportedly offered seven years and $150 million, but Teixeira eventually took eight years and $180 million to joined the Orioles hated rival, the New York Yankees.
While offering is not the same as signing, the Orioles showed that for the right bat, they are willing to pay the right price. Fielder would no doubt command the largest contract in franchise history, but the Orioles have showed the league that they are able to spend.
The Orioles also have big money contracts coming off the books. Mike Gonzalez, Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero will leave and give the Orioles some room in the budget. The Orioles have incredible, young starters that are not yet arbitration eligible, so they get pitching on the cheap and can spend on a big bat.
This may seem insignificant, but it definitely changes the outlook of the free agent market.
The two teams that have the money to sign Fielder for a big deal without thinking twice will not be in the market, so the price will be low enough that the Orioles have a shot.
The Cubs owe big money to Alfonso Soriano still and the Nationals just committed huge money to Jayson Werth. The Orioles biggest contract in 2012 will likely be Nick Markakis, but that is only for $12.5 million.
The Orioles need some home run hitters in the lineup. Mark Reynolds is the current team leader in home runs with nine, but he has had so much trouble hitting that it doesn't do much to help.
Adam Jones has never hit 20 home runs in a season and Nick Markakis's power has disappeared. Matt Wieters isn't quite "Mauer with Power" yet.
Prince Fielder is clearly powerful. He hit a home run at Tiger Stadium as a 12 year old. He's now one of the best home run hitters in the majors. He won the Home Run Derby in 2009, which doesn't mean much, but shows his raw power.
What does mean a lot is that Fielder is second in the majors in home runs since 2007 with 175, just eight less than Ryan Howard. Fielder can crush the ball all over the field. I already mentioned that he hit 50 home runs in 2007, but I didn't emphasize how incredible that is.
Only 26 players have done that in the history of the game. Fielder could be the first 50 home run hitter on the Orioles since Brady Anderson's monster season 1996.
It's pretty clear that the Baltimore Orioles could use Prince Fielder, but it is not a forgone conclusion that they will sign him. The Orioles had a really tough time drawing players to Baltimore this past offseason and would really need to sell Fielder on the merits of joining this franchise on the rise.
The Orioles clearly are a team on the rise with players like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are also normally very good.
Assuming Fielder signed long-term with the Orioles, he would certainly get to play with future superstar Manny Machado. He could also look forward to 2011 first round pick Dylan Bundy joining the fold in the next couple of years.
There is talent in Baltimore and Prince Fielder could add to it, but the Orioles aren't the only team that could be in the mix. The Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs will be players and the San Francisco Giants could be a player.
I don't really see the Seattle Mariners or Los Angeles Angels making a push, but they may inquire as well. Also, don't forget the Milwaukee Brewers, who boast a great core with Ryan Braun and Zack Greinke.
Keep your eyes open this offseason for Prince Fielder to get a big contract. The state of Maryland certainly hopes that he chooses Baltimore as his home for the next few years.