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November 9, 2011 at 12:41 PM

The most puzzling excuse of all for why the Mariners should balk on signing Prince Fielder

We’re all waiting to see what the Mariners do with their off-season plan and many opinions, both pro and con, have been put forth about free agent Prince Fielder and whether the team should take a run at him.
But of all the reasons for not trying to sign Fielder, one of them boggles my mind. I keep seeing it repeated over and over again on blogs and media sites and for the life of me simply don’t understand it.
It’s the reasoning that says that the team shouldn’t sign Fielder because they are not just one player away from contending in 2012.
Well, no kidding Sherlock.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Mariners are several players away from contending at any point in the next few seasons, let alone the coming one.
But does that mean you pass on a chance of adding what would be the best bat of all to the team’s lineup? I suppose…if you feel like sitting around several more years waiting for something better than a .500 season. Look, I don’t care whether it’s Fielder, Joey Votto or some other guy who can be pried away via trade. Fielder isn’t the be all, end all. But he is better than anything this team has with the stick. And this team is historically bad at swinging and connecting.
What does it matter if the Mariners aren’t going to be “ready” to contend before 2013 or 2014? You don’t sign guys to multi-year deals — and Fielder is said to be looking at five years or more — based on what’s going to happen in the next 12 months. Since when did we devolve into this myopic brand of roster construction? Here’s a news flash: Fielder won’t be around as a free agent a year from now and it’s possible there won’t be an impact hitter out there.
Free agents aren’t sitting around waiting for the Mariners and their fans to decide when they’re “ready” to contend. You build a team piece by piece based on what’s available to you at the time.
And if Fielder is the best upgrade you can get now, you sign him, spend another year developing the rest of your team while (hopefully) playing .500 ball, then add the rest of the pieces a year from now. So, you’ll have used up one year of your five-or-six-year deal. So what?
If we took this “we’re not ready to contend right now” approach to every player out there, why did this team even bother extending Felix Hernandez? We’ve now used up two of the five years in his extension and seen the M’s lose 196 games over that span.
The answer is simple. Because major league teams don’t operate this way. They know they’ll never be able to dictate a perfect market and opportunity for contention. They know that stuff happens in baseball and that you jump at opportunities to improve long-term when they present themselves.
Anybody here believe the Washington Nationals felt they were going to win the NL East last year when they went out and splurged on Jayson Werth? Of course not. They were building for the future by “adding talent” which is something every team in baseball tries to do and has never been an exclusive Mariners catchphrase.
Some of you may not think the Nats will ever contend. But I can assure you they have their own “plan” and that it involves winning at some point. And that they believe they are a step closer to winning with Werth than without him.
Which brings us to another excuse I keep hearing: what makes anybody believe Fielder would want to come to Seattle?
Photo Credit: AP

Well, I can guarantee you one thing. If that’s the attitude the Mariners take into any negotiations with Fielder, they have zero chance.
But set aside that defeatism for a second and ask yourself, how did the Nationals convince Werth to sign?
Well, they threw a lot of bucks at him for one. That part’s inevitable. You want to get the really good players, you eventually have to pay. Again, the Mariners can afford Fielder next season without even raising payroll, simply by shedding a few more pricey parts. They can afford him for years to come simply by allowing Ichiro’s contract to expire and resisting the temptation to overpay him to come back. Can’t phrase it any more clearly than that. Money is not going to be the issue when it comes to signing Fielder.
So, how to get him here?
Like anything else in life, you sell Fielder on the virtues of the Mariners. Just like the Nationals — hardly anybody’s vision of a premier franchise — were able to sell Werth on the merits of their team. I seriously doubt the Nationals told Werth “Hey, we’re not going anywhere but third or fourth place the next seven years, but we’ll keep you happy with that truckload of extra dough.”
No, Werth is like any other player. He wants the money, yes, but eventually he’s going to want to play for something meaningful.
And I’m sure the Nationals told him all about their rebuilding plan with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Again, some of you may feel there’s a lot of b.s. involved in that particular plan, but somebody in D.C. must believe in it. And they sold Werth on it.
Just like the Mariners would have to sell Fielder on the merits of where they’re going. Maybe it’s all going to amount to a bunch of b.s. down the road, but if you’re going through the trouble of selling your fanbase on this Mariners rebuilding, you may as welll make the same sales pitch to players.
And if the plan’s any good, some players will buy into it. If nobody does buy into it, maybe there isn’t all that much there to begin with.
Maybe some of you feel this team really is several years away from seriously contending. Maybe you think it will take until 2015 or 2016 to really get anyplace. That’s fair enough. But if that’s the case, then you must also believe that the team has no choice but to trade Felix Hernandez as soon as possible.
There aren’t two sides to that coin. The only reason you keep Hernandez right now — rather than moving him for a package that can fast-forward your rebuilding plan — is because you feel this team will contend during the lifetime of his current deal. And preferably before his “walk” year in 2014. Otherwise, holding on to him makes little sense.
I’ll assume most of you feel this team will contend prior to that. It could be in 2012, or maybe 2013 or 2014 at the absolute latest. Well, if that’s the case, you try to get Fielder, or Votto or somebody that can speed up the major work needed on this offense. Justin Smoak can spend time at DH and spell Fielder a couple of times per week in the field.
Mike Carp? You’re going to pass on acquiring one of the premier power hitters in the game because you’re worried about Carp? I’ll take that problem and raise you.
Fielder won’t be the only answer for this squad. But he doesn’t have to be the only answer brought in this winter. And the rebuilding doesn’t have to end this winter either. If your plan is to contend in 2013, Fielder will bring you one step closer.
He’s not signing a one-year deal. To rule him out because you’re waiting until the team has its absolute best shot of contending within a 12-month window is not only foolish, it might set your rebuilding back even further if no better bat comes along after.



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