Despite the fact that he is probably the second-most coveted player in this season's free-agent market behind new Los Angeles Angel Albert Pujols, former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder remains unsigned. One team that would truly benefit from his services is the Baltimore Orioles.
According to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has not yet ruled out making the hefty power hitter an offer. The Orioles did, after all, offer New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira a seven-year, $140 million deal a couple years back.
While pitching is certainly a bigger issue than hitting for the Orioles at this point, even the best pitching team is going to struggle in the American League East. With the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays all boasting solid lineups, the best way to compete is likely to slug it out with the rest of them.
The Orioles already have a solid lineup thanks to the likes of Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, but Fielder would give them a legitimate power threat who can hit for average at the same time. On top of that, the O's have a fairly obvious hole at first base.
There simply isn't much impact pitching available at the moment, so the Orioles are going to continue to struggle in terms of allowing runs. The only way to combat that, in my mind, is to improve the lineup to the point where they can get involved in and win shootouts.
Baltimore has long been an afterthought in the AL East, so signing Fielder wouldn't simply make the Orioles a better team. But it would be a warning shot to teams like the Yankees and Red Sox that they're willing to go out and get elite talent as well.
Nobody views the Orioles as a serious threat. Their repeated last-place finishes in the division have a lot to do with that, but they do have some talent. On top of that, manager Buck Showalter seems like the right man for the job. All the O's lack now is a splashy addition to get people talking.
I'm not going to suggest that the Orioles will win the AL East or make the postseason with the signing of Fielder, but it would clearly be a step in the right direction. I have to believe that the Orioles are tired of being the doormat of the division, so signing Fielder is great decision, especially since he figures to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come.