MLB Free Agents 2012: 5 Darkhorse Suitors in Prince Fielder Sweepstakes
While the prominent 2012 MLB free-agent class begins and ends with Albert Pujols, there's no doubting that former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder is the hottest property up for grabs this winter.
Speculation regarding which teams have the "best shot" at signing the youngster have come at no shortage. The Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers have propagated the most noteworthy headlines up to this point.
However, what other teams could be in the mix for the 27-year-old slugger? Here are five teams that could come out of nowhere to nab Fielder this offseason.
New York Mets
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Conventional wisdom tells us the Mets should be spending their money elsewhere (Jose Reyes), but you'd be surprised to know they may have a chance at snatching Fielder this winter.
Rumors suggest New York may not be able to afford their speedy shortstop this offseason, which opens up the door for many other free-agent possibilities.
With the contracts of Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and possibly even David Wright (via trade) coming off the books this winter, there should be a large chunk of change ready at New York's disposal — no matter how financially impaired they may be.
Heck, even Cecil Fielder agrees the Mets have a shot at his son.
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The Miami Marlins will be ushering in a whole new direction with the opening of their brand new stadium and team name change next season. They may be on the verge of signing some top-tier talent as well.
Finishing dead last in the NL East last season, the Marlins finished in the bottom-half of all MLB clubs in runs (625), HR (149), RBI (596), OBP (.318) and extra-base hits (453). If there was a team in more need of offensive production in 2011, it was the Fish.
However, with the hiring of longtime White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen last month, and an already talented group of young players headlined by Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison and Josh Johnson in place, signing Fielder certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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The Angels have been considered challengers for Fielder for quite some time, but with the Rangers' recent World Series-woes, they've been a bit overshadowed for the past few weeks.
Truthfully, there may be no better fit for Fielder than in Mike Scioscia's clubhouse. The club is already one of the better hitting ball clubs in the MLB, and they should have the money for the long-term contract that Fielder is seeking.
With young Mark Trumbo holding down the fort at first base with great efficiency and Bobby Abreu on the trading block, Fielder should make a smooth transition to designated hitter.
Toronto Blue Jays
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While this is hands down the biggest stretch featured in our list, there's simply no denying the appeal.
Over the years, the Blue Jays have been more well known to ship away top talent rather than fetch it, which probably makes this signing a bit of a pipe dream.
However, with their offensive juggernaut comprised of Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia, GM Alex Anthropoulos would be wise to relish the opportunity at hand with Fielder now open for signing.
Granted, they may not have deep pockets like that of the Nationals and the Cubs, but they do have more than enough tempting talent for Fielder to recognize.
St. Louis Cardinals
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Up to this point, speculation says Albert Pujols should be able and willing to re-sign with the Cardinals this offseason, even though he's publicly denied such inquiry.
However, what happens if he in fact chooses to leave and sign with a team such as the Cubs? St. Louis' next best option would be Fielder, and you can' count on them pursuing the burly vegetarian.
It seems like a hundred-to-one shot at best, but if the opportunity and need presents itself, it certainly wouldn't be out of the question for the Cardinals to snatch Fielder this winter.