Earlier this week, Jon Morosi over at FOX Sports wrote a piece describing how the Hot Stove season (mainly, Prince Fielder) could continue into the chilly months of 2012. In the current day and age of media swarming at every rumor, the market on Free Agent slugger Prince Fielder has been awfully quiet.
In his article, Jon writes how various teams including the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs may all be in play for the First Baseman. Two of the more intriguing teams however, are the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. The Mariners, who haven't had a slugger of this caliber since the Griffey Jr./Alex Rodriguez days, and the Orioles who have not had a franchise player since Ripken Jr. would both receive a jolt of energy from such a player as Prince. With tight payrolls and diminishing markets, could either team make such a drastic signing?To start, Prince Fielder is a career .285/.415/.566 hitter. Last season to Left Field (think for instance, a Fenway Park), he had a 1.063 OPS and a .305 ISO (compared to Adrian Gonzalez with a 1.336 & .350, Josh Hamilton with a .873 & .215 and Robinson Cano with a .966 & .205). To Right Field ( Yankee Stadium sees a few balls out there from time to time) he had a 1.804 & .411 split (Gonzalez- 1.010 & .285, Hamilton - 1.171 & .373, Cano - 1.020 & .362). We can see that he stacks up nicely against some of the best lefty sluggers in the AL in both divisions (not to mention that Hamilton plays 82 games in the very hitter friendly Ballpark At Arlington).
Now lets talk money: Although raising payroll slightly last year, the Marines are well under their $100,000 million days of the past. The Orioles have been steadily increasing payroll over the past few seasons. Bottom line; both teams would need to make a move.
The Orioles have $15 million coming off their books from Derek Lee and Vlad. Still, $10 million is owed to Brian Roberts each year until 2013, along with an average of $14 million to Nick Markakis. Luke Scott and Adam Jones are both approaching Arbitration years, so locking them up with back loaded deals now may help. The Orioles desperately need pitching, and for over $20 million a season, Prince does not bring that. Markakis and Jones bring added protection to the 3 or 4 hitter...sorry Brian Roberts, but you don't fit into my equation.$10 million is not a terrible cost, but it comes with a warning label. Not healthy since 2009, Roberts has missed plenty of time. Would a team look to add a 2b for some pitching? (I'm looking at you Miami).
The Mariners are even more interesting. Ichiro is entering his final $18 million season with the club. With King Felix signed until 2014 at nearly $20 million per, the Mariners have a ton of youth climbing through their system at a team friendly cost. Franklin Gutierrez, Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda and a bevy of other Pitchers and Position players coming on will help payroll flexibility. Ichiro is not the problem, since his void will probably be filled by Trayvon Robinson or in a matter of years Johermyn Chavez. Chone Figgins, who has been nothing short of awful in Seattle has another $18 million over two years left on his contract. To give him up for anything in return might cost them a prospect (hopefully, only a pitcher). Ichiro could be shipped as well, but like Alfonso Soriano, I am not sure who is in the market for a pricey aging corner OF. Justin Smoak is a piece that must be moved, after he has failed to seemingly live up to his hype in the Cliff Lee trade. I'm not sure who would go for him, but he could be a pretty serviceable 1B for most rebuilding teams.
Now, I am not saying that either one of these teams will end up with Prince. In fact, I wouldn't bet on it. I'm simply laying out a possibility of something that makes sense. Prince is a veteran who would have a great clubhouse presence amongst these two stories franchises. To put to bed the rumors of King Felix leaving for a contender, or the Fighting Schowalters getting out of the bottom of the AL East, creativity must occur. The Mariners do have a ton of money coming in for TV rights, so who knows what either team could spend.