With all the talk early on in the season about the possible movement of Albert Pujols from St. Louis, many didn't realize that the much younger,and very talented Prince Fielder would also be in the free agent market.
At 27 years old, Fielder is putting up what Ryan Braun considers to be potential NL MVP numbers at this point in the season, and it would be foolish to doubt this statement as Fielder is currently representing a line of .305/.426/.611 with 21 home runs and a National League-leading 68 RBI.
Although his body poses as a potential red flag for many teams who could be looking at Fielder, these five clubs will be the most driven at acquiring the young slugger and the most likely to contend an offer.
The Baltimore Orioles are going to be in need of a first baseman at the end of 2011 as Derreck Lee will be parting ways and heading to free agency; where he'll likely get picked up by one of the teams who misses out on Fielder.
Baltimore made offers to Mark Teixeira in 2008 before they were outbid by the Yankees, and they'll have some money to spend this offseason. Therefore, it's not hard to believe they will be willing to spend a lot of it on Fielder if they get the opportunity.
Fielder is the big bat that Baltimore is in dire need of and with Mark Reynolds on the hot corner—maintaining his label as the strikeout king—Fielder could rub some of his hitting skills off on Reynolds. And if Reynolds can acquire some of the big man's plate presence, he could break out himself into the 30-30 candidate we've all seen him to have the potential to be.
The San Francisco Giants are making another run at the World Series in 2011 and although they have a stellar rotation to take them through the playoffs, you can be certain that they'll run into many rotations of equal or higher talent (Phillies in the NLCS).
This means that they will have to add a distinguished bat to their lineup if they hope to continue contending for the playoffs in the coming seasons. Prince Fielder is the distinguished bat they will need.
Being born and bred in California, it is not hard to believe that Fielder could find his way to the West Coast by the end of the 2011 season.
I'm sure many of you are already visualizing the size of this infield with Pablo Sandoval on the hot corner and Prince Fielder at first base, and you may have difficulty seeing the Giants add another "bad body" to their lineup.
However, I see opportunity in this idea as the Giants would be able to get the two players into better shape (most specifically, Sandoval) by putting them on specified training regimes together.
I imagine on a team that isn't exactly known for its size, it could have been difficult for Sandoval to be on his own workout schedule by himself. But with a partner to help motivate him, and vice versa, this could be another scenario where Fielder could help bring about the emergence of the third baseman that we've been waiting for.
You may be surprised to see the Cubs on this list as many of us have heard them to be the No. 1 contender for Albert Pujols.
However, it is not certain that Pujols will decide to leave St. Louis after this season, and he has far more emotional ties to that city than Fielder has to Milwaukee.
If Pujols decides to stay with the Cardinals, or to take an offer from a team other than the Cubs, than you can expect them to shift their focus towards Fielder.
It's no secret that Chicago will likely be moving Carlos Pena, who hasn't delivered with the bat like he was expected to, and so the gap at first base will need to be filled.
The Cubs are in desperate need to become playoff contenders and it is getting more and more difficult to watch them fail miserably year after year.
With their young middle infield of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro able to effectively lead off the batting order, matched with the respectable on base percentage of Aramis Ramirez in the third spot, Fielder brings the average, and on base percentage, with huge RBI and home run capabilities that will make him a perfect fit for the cleanup spot in Chicago.
The Cubs don't have a hitter like Fielder and although he is only one piece to the puzzle, he fills one of the most important voids and you can expect a major surge in run production with him in the lineup.
One of the biggest road blocks to a team bidding on Prince Fielder is the fact that he is represented by the relentless super-agent Scott Boras.
Many teams will refuse to do business with Scott Boras, which is a reason why the Los Angeles Angels won't be on this list.
However, Washington has had no problem in dealing with Boras over the years as they not only signed a mega-deal with outfielder Jayson Werth last season, but have chosen Boras-represented players with their first picks in the last three entry drafts in Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.
This creates the perfect climate for a partnership between the two.
Washington also proves to be a solid fit for Fielder as they have a very talented young core of players on the rise, and a void at first base that needs to be filled.
They have shown signs of life this season, playing to a 48-50 record, and you can only expect them to improve as they see the return of Stephen Strasburg and the imminent call-up of prodigy Bryce Harper sometime in the next two seasons. Fielder could be the final piece to a playoff contending team in Washington.
This option is the least likely of the five to happen.
This being said, the Astros are under new ownership, and Jim Crane will likely want to create a bit of a splash in the trade and free agency market this season.
There is already a great deal of talk of the movement of Hunter Pence, and with Pence being their biggest bat in the order, the Stros will need a strong hitter to replace him.
Granted, the young Brett Wallace is entrenched at first base at the moment, but I believe that since Fielder is only 27 years old, if Houston has an opportunity to venture an offer for him, than they would either move Wallace to another team in a package deal with Pence, or the more likely scenario of moving him to third base, where he played in college at Arizona State.
The reason why I say this is the least likely team to contend an offer for Fielder of the five I've listed is simply because of the ownership change. Crane is going to have a lot of pressure on him to make a move with Pence, and whatever trade he makes involving the club's star player will be under serious scrutiny.
There is a chance Crane will enter into his new ownership cautiously and conservatively, in which case a run for one of the top three biggest fish in the free agency pool would seem unlikely.
There is also an equal chance, however, that he will want to make his mark as an aggressive owner with hopes to start a rebuild as soon as possible, in which case this scenario is much more likely to happen.