Two weeks ago, the list of potential suitors for Prince Fielder was as big as the man himself. The Cubs, Marlins, Brewers, Rangers, Nationals, Orioles, Blue Jays and Mariners all had reported interest in the free agent slugger.
Rumors of eight-year, $200 million+ contracts swirled around, and most Mariners fans thought there was virtually no chance to sign him.
Well, what a difference a week makes.
Jack Zduriencik has had dialogue with Fielder's agent Scott Boras, but has not gone so far as to talk about a specific offer or just how serious the Mariners are about pursuing the hulking first baseman. While some teams actively talk up their interest in a free agent to make that player feel wanted, and scare off other teams, Jack Z has decided to do the opposite—and it just might pay dividends.
In the last seven days, the Marlins have given Jose Reyes a six-year, $106 million deal. The Nationals are chasing pitching, notably free agent starter C.J. Wilson, and are also targeting Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes.
The Brewers told local news reporters that they are out of the Fielder sweepstakes and are turning their attention elsewhere, and the Cubs have made it clear that Albert Pujols is their preferred choice. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous told reporters at the Winter Meetings that he was not interested in any free agent who was looking for a seven- or eight-year contract (which is what it may take to sign Fielder)
This leaves Texas still in the hunt, although they are looking to sign Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and probably Ian Kinsler to multi-year extensions—plus they have to replace C.J. Wilson (assuming he goes elsewhere). A power bat is not their top priority, and with Napoli, Michael Young and Mitch Mooreland all options at first base it would be easy to see the Rangers pulling out of a bidding war for Fielder.
This then leaves the Orioles and Mariners. Both American League teams. Both offensively challenged. If this ends up being the choice for Fielder, his relationship with Zduriencik and Tony Blengino must play into Seattle's favor.
With half a dozen teams in the mix, Scott Boras can do what he does best—drive his client's price sky high. But a bidding war between smaller market teams is harder to orchestrate. By waiting for some of the other teams in play to put their money elsewhere, Trader Jack has put himself in a much better bargaining position.
This is by no means a slam dunk, but Zduriencik's decision to play his cards close to his chest thus far could come up aces.