This assignment is fast becoming one of the more interesting ones of the baseball season. I can’t stress to you all how much of the upcoming baseball season is actually dictated by what a team does over the winter. Many a season has been won and lost before a team actually takes the field. And often, what a team spends can go a long way towards helping it to the post-season.
Already, dollar signs are flying fast and furious here at the Hilton Anatole hotel. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes agreed last night to a six-year, $106-million deal with the suddenly spend-happy Florida Marlins, a team that spent years banking revenue sharing money while fielding pathetic payrolls and ensuring that all of its young talent did not lead to anything major.
Now, the latest beneficiaries of MLB’s stadium gambit — where wealthy team owners get taxpayers to finance cash cow stadiums — are spending like drunken sailors who hit the lottery while out on leave.
Which brings us to Prince Fielder.
It will be interesting to see what type of market develops for the first baseman, but I can tell you, the rumors that he’d narrowed his search down to the Blue Jays, Rangers and Brewers were not accurate. The Blue Jays have told folks here they have no interest in the type of deal Fielder has been seeking — something in the six-to-eight-year range.
As we told you before, the Rangers have also shown only lukewarm interest as they look to better their pitching needs.
The Mariners would love to get their hands on Fielder. As we wrote yesterday, if the Mariners maintain payroll at its current level, the team will have just over $14 million in cash to spend — when you factor in the $1.7 million owed to draft pick Danny Hultzen next year.
Like the Blue Jays and other clubs, the Mariners really need the Fielder asking price and years total to come down a notch before they can jump in with both feet.
Will that happen?
Well, if there is little other competition, then it’s very possible. Some of the Cubs people I spoke to last night tell me new team president Theo Epstein has been very aggressive in telling his staff to go out and fill their needs. The Cubs actually had the smallest administrative staff in all of baseball, but Epstein has already made moves to expand it upon hearing that the club needed it.
So, no, his newcomer status won’t necessarily prevent that team from going after Fielder, or Albert Pujols.
But there’s a question of timing involved here, since the Cubs are still a young team and — like the Mariners — not really a year away from contending for anything. So, if the Cubs don’t get in on Fielder, that would be the main reason why.
The Mariners are in largely the same boat, with their team looking at least a year or two away from anything. But the difference is, Cubs fans aren’t going anywhere. They’ve waited a century for a World Series title and will wait even longer if they need to. It’s one of the things in life you can count of with relative certainty. Also, the Cubs don’t have Felix Hernandez and a clock ticking on his remaining contract years.
So, with the Mariners, there is a sense of urgency.
If Fielder doesn’t want to go to Seattle, or the M’s can’t meet his demands, there will be other options for the team on the trade front.
The Mariners have poked their nose into just about every available third baseman, left fielder, starting pitcher, relief pitcher and backup infielder out there. We’ll start to narrow down the choices as we hear more.
For now, things are just getting started here. Stay tuned to the blog throughout the day for more winter meetings coverage.