Thanks to Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Rule V draft is going almost completely unnoticed. A 10-year deal worth $250 million for the best player of the last decade in MLB will do that.
The Angels have made a huge splash here. Pujols changes the complexion of their roster. Strictly speaking, this is an overpay, but it could be thoroughly worthwhile if things come together for the Angels and their new slugger.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals are the woman abandoned, and the Miami Marlins are the one Pujols left at the altar. Both are now likely to spend money in other places, although neither is expected to be involved in the pursuit of Prince Fielder.
Say, speaking of Fielder, this seems to make the market for him even juicier. If Pujols (four years Fielder's elder, and coming off his worse season) is worth $250 million, surely Fielder can demand at least $200 million.
To get there, he will need multiple suitors. Scott Boras, Fielder's agent, will surely find some, and one particular team just got a whole lot more motivation to make their push. Here are the 10 teams most likely to land Fielder in the wake of the Pujols deal.
This will probably run more in the vein of a cursory phone call than a real pursuit, but the Cardinals have to at least look at Fielder. They had a ton of money earmarked for Pujols, and although they'd like to save some of it, they can't save all of it.
Lance Berkman now projects as the first baseman, which is fine, but since it sounds like Jimmy Rollins is off the market, the money the team would have spent on Pujols seems in danger of going to waste. They'll make an offer, but it won't be enough.
The ownership nightmare in Chavez Ravine will probably make this deal impossible. Still, the team got clearance to sign Matt Kemp for eight years and $160 million, and after James Loney was arrested last month, it would be easier than ever to justify the expense of Fielder.
It would also be a counter to the Angels' spending spree, which is important. The Angels have essentially surpassed the Dodgers in the Los Angeles market, and this week has only stretched that difference. Fielder could bring some needed balance as the Dodgers seek a new owner.
The feeling has been that the Giants will prioritize locking up Tim Lincecum over a major free-agent splash, and in fact, they have made it harder to find a fit for Fielder by trading for both Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. They clearly aren't high on Brandon Belt, though, and Fielder would be a difference-making bat for them.
Maybe the biggest sticking point here is that the Giants have no certainty about their best player at the moment. Buster Posey's injury last season calls into question his catching future. The Giants might need first base open for Posey soon.
The Brewers had hoped to hang around and stay in the mix for Fielder, whom they really liked as a clubhouse presence in addition to his on-field production. Prior to the Pujols deal, they were a top five contender for Fielder's services.
When Pujols got $250 million, though, the Brewers' hearts had to crack a bit. They're virtually out at this point, as Fielder is sure to get $170 million or more elsewhere.
The Blue Jays are a sleeping giant. Back when they won back-to-back World Series in 1992-93, they ran the biggest payroll in baseball, and they're still capable of spending $120 million-plus per season.
The question is whether they are ready to do it yet or not. It might not be the right time to jump into that pool, given their competitive position and great farm system. Still, a Fielder-Jose Bautista combination in the middle of the lineup would be very intriguing.
Jose Reyes clearly didn't tax the Marlins' resources too heavily, as they also found $58 million for Mark Buehrle. Still, they fell out of contention for Pujols pretty quickly, and one has to think the money Pujols got will drive Fielder's price out of Miami's range. Combine that with the lack of urgent need—the Fish do have Gaby Sanchez, after all—and it seems a non-fit.
The Nationals have all kinds of money. Their owner Mark Lerner is among the wealthiest in the game, and the team is getting revenue-sharing money despite being in the upper half of the league in revenue streams. They could sign Fielder if they really wanted to do so.
It comes down to where the organization feels it stands. If they see themselves as legitimate contenders in 2012, they could add Fielder and make a run at the pennant. If not, they may prefer to hold first base open for an infielder who someday has to change position.
It's complicated. Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon are great third basemen whose defensive skills would be wasted at first, yet each belongs in the lineup. How far away is Bryce Harper? How much can the team rely on Stephen Strasburg? Could the Nationals get rid of Adam LaRoche and/or Mike Morse in order to clear roster space for Fielder? It seems infeasible, but it's certainly possible.
Watching their AL West rivals go hog-wild should motivate the Mariners to spend. They have lacked a true star batter ever since Edgar Martinez called it quits, and Fielder's girth is less an issue there, since he could slide to DH if and when he finds it more comfortable.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the Mariners aren't necessarily close to challenging Texas or the Angels for divisional supremacy. They could get there by committing to Fielder and building around their excellent pitching staff, but it's going to be a few years before that all materializes, either way.
The value of having Fielder's most recent hitting coach (Dale Sveum) on the top step of the dugout has been overstated. The value of appealing to the egos of both Fielder and his agent Scott Boras cannot be.
The Cubs have repeatedly been whispered to be offering huge money over fewer years to both Fielder and Pujols. One has to think that, even if it meant signing a five-year deal, getting the first ever $30 million annual average value would tempt Fielder and Boras tremendously.
The elements are all here. The Rangers have tons of available cash. They just watched their rivals reel in the biggest fish on the market, and then (reporting now) the Rangers' erstwhile ace, C.J. Wilson. They need more left-handed thump in their lineup, and a more solid solution at first base. If they don't end up with Fielder at this point, it will be a shock.