Mystery Team Rumors
Prince Fielder, who hit baseballs out of Tiger Stadium as a 12-year-old, is on his way back to Detroit, where his father, Cecil Fielder, starred for seven years. The Tigers have officially agreed to sign the free agent first baseman to a nine-year, $214MM contract.
The agreement -- the fourth largest in baseball history behind Alex Rodriguez's mega-contracts and Albert Pujols' recent deal with the Angels -- will keep Fielder in the Motor City through his age 36 season for an average annual value of $23.78MM. It doesn't include any opt-outs, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com tweets.
Though the market for Fielder seemed far from robust at times this offseason, agent Scott Boras has found an unexpected suitor once again. Over the years, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrowski have dealt extensively with Boras regarding clients such as Kenny Rogers, Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez.
Fielder will play first base and Miguel Cabrera will change roles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Victor Martinez will miss most or all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, so it's possible that Cabrera will DH this year. He has only played 14 games at third base since being traded to Detroit after the 2007 season, but a return to the hot corner seems to be a possibility for Cabrera.
Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com suggests a return to third base is likely for Cabrera and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that Cabrera was "really excited" about the Tigers' new addition (Twitter links).
Fielder's considered a below average defender at first base, but he's a force at the plate. He posted a .299/.415/.566 line with 38 home runs in 2011, finishing in the top five in MVP balloting for the third time in the past five seasons. He has a .282/.390/.540 line in seven seasons in Milwaukee, where he averaged 37 home runs per 162 games played. Concerns about Fielder's stocky physique do exist, but Boras defended his client's build at the December Winter Meetings.
“Everyone talks to me about Prince’s body, but when you have that 5’11” strike zone, that is a huge advantage and that’s why that on-base percentage is sitting there," he said. "Those pitchers have to put the ball into a smaller window and I believe that it’s more difficult to do.”
This June the Tigers will surrender their first round pick (27th overall) to the Brewers, who offered Fielder arbitration earlier in the offseason. Milwaukee will also obtain a second compensatory pick for losing Fielder, the seventh overall selection in the 2002 draft. Fielder is among the Brewers' all-time leaders in many offensive categories, including home runs (230), on-base percentage (.390), sluggling percentage (.540) and walks (566).
Cecil Fielder, whose off-and-on relationship with his son has been well-documented, hit 245 home runs in a Tigers uniform, good for fifth on the franchise's all-time list. The elder Fielder led the American League in home runs in 1990 with 51 and in 1991 with 44.
When MLBTR polled readers in mid-December, just 5.6% of 27,000 respondents expected Fielder to sign a nine or ten-year deal. He ranked second on MLBTR's list of top free agents this offseason, trailing only Pujols.
The deal figures to provide lots of leverage for Joey Votto, who will hit free agency after the 2013 season if the Reds don't extend him first. On the other hand, free agent designated hitters such as Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Raul Ibanez and Vladimir Guerrero lost a potential suitor this afternoon.
Heyman tweets that the Nationals and a third mystery team were in on Fielder until the end. Heyman first reported the agreement on Twitter and Yahoo's Tim Brown first reported that the sides were close to a deal.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
Scott Boras did it again. Just when it looked like the market for Prince Fielder had slowed late in the offseason, Boras got his prized client the fourth richest contract in baseball history. The Tigers agreed to sign the slugger to a nine-year contract worth $214MM today, giving them the most devastating 3-4 lineup tandem in the game. Here's a recap of what's been said about the deal...
- "In some sense, I'm glad he got a good contract that he's satisfied with. We knew early on that we probably weren't going to be in it. I think Prince probably knew that, too," said Brewers GM Doug Melvin to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Melvin confirmed they hadn't had serious extension talks with Fielder since Spring Training of 2010, and he credited the slugger with helping the team get back to being contenders.
- Rival executives told Joel Sherman of The New York Post that they think the signing came from ownership, not GM Dave Dombrowski (Twitter link). He says deals for other Boras clients -- Johnny Damon, Ivan Rodriguez, and Magglio Ordonez -- happened the same way. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports heard that owner Mike Illitch influenced the signing "100%" (Twitter link).
- The Nationals and a mystery team were strongly in on Fielder, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). The Mariners, meanwhile, told teams they didn't have money to spend on a hitter of Prince's caliber, which is why they traded for Jesus Montero according to Sherman.
- Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News says (on Twitter) that the Giants were never really in on Fielder.
- ESPN's Keith Law, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, and SI.com's Cliff Corcoran agree that Fielder will improve the Tigers in the short-term, but the last few years of the contract could be messy.
2:29pm: An announcement from Crisp's new team should come today or tomorrow, Comte tells Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group. Comte ruled out the Cubs, while Stiglich gets the impression Crisp could return to the A's.
MONDAY, 8:55pm: The Orioles have been talking to Crisp in recent days and they’re interested in signing him, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, it hasn’t been confirmed that the Orioles are the mystery team.
"Basically, we just have to let that team know," Comte told Slusser.
The Athletics want to re-sign Crisp, according to Slusser. They’ve been in touch with him all offseason, but 12-13 other teams have discussed Crisp with Comte. The A’s have also spoken to free agent Ryan Ludwick, according to Slusser. Oakland selected Ludwick in the second round of the 1999 draft and traded him to the Rangers three years later.
The switch-hitting Crisp led the American League with 49 stolen bases in 2011, hitting .264/.314/.379 with 27 doubles as Oakland's center fielder. The California native seems to prefer West Coast teams, but explained in September that he’s also looking to play on a winner and find a good "financial situation" for himself.
It's been a puzzling winter. Some have speculated that the big winners have been the Miami Marlins or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Others will hold up the Rangers as the true offseason giant after landing Yu Darvish.
It's all academic, really. The most active team by far over the past two offseasons has been Mystery Team. Some have speculated that this was simply a device used by agents to drive up the price of their clients. But a closer look at Mystery Team's acquisitions makes it clear: an entire lineup and pitching staff has been built that will be the envy of everyone in baseball next year. Let's take a closer look at how Mystery Team stacks up:
At catcher, Russell Martin brings strong playcalling and a decent bat to Mystery Team's forces. He went Mystery Team back in the winter of 2010, living proof that Casey Stengel's phrase, "Without a catcher, you have a lot of passed balls" still holds power over the best front offices.
Newly-acquired first baseman Albert Pujols represents one of the great Mystery Team pickups, with conventional wisdom assigning him to either the Cardinals or Marlins right up until Mystery Team emerged. As you'll see, however, Pujols was merely the final piece in the Mystery Team championship puzzle.
Mystery Team isn't just about the stars, either, and that kind of focus on detail comes through in double-play combination Orlando Hudson, a Mystery Team member since January 2010, and Jamey Carroll, who will play shortstop for Mystery Team after joining the club this winter. This kind of veteran leadership is bound to help this clubhouse find its identity.
At third base, Adrian Beltre has been a reliable contributor to Mystery Team since last winter. Speculation had him in talks with Mystery Team prior to this, but he'd ultimately chosen reality-based clubs too quickly for Mystery Team to swoop in until last year.
In the outfield, the defense is a little shaky. Johnny Damon is the Mystery Team's left fielder (acquired on waivers in August 2010), and Vladimir Guerrero plays right. The question: who is able to cover all that ground between them? Why, none other than the Mysterious Yoenis Cespedes, team unknown. Or is it?
Obviously, the addition of Darvish gives Mystery Team a devastating one-two punch in the starting rotation. Few players make more sense for Mystery Team than Darvish, whose ultimate destination remained a secret for days after teams submitted sealed bids. The entire process would have made Richard Nixon proud.
Darvish will follow Cliff Lee, last winter's biggest Mystery Team pickup, in any postseason series. Lee spurned the Yankees for Mystery Team, and you'd have to figure it was because Mystery Team's GM, whoever he is, told Lee about all his teammates to come.
The rotation has depth as well as star power, with C.J. Wilson slotting in as a strong third starter, Carl Pavano a capable fourth starter, and the fifth starter a competition between Justin Duchscherer and Brandon Webb. Mystery Team is hoping one of them will stay healthy, but isn't counting on both of them. It's called Mystery Team, not Fantasy Team.
The bullpen is anchored by Mystery Team's most engaging personality, Heath Bell. But Bell isn't alone. Mystery Team wanted Chad Qualls so badly, Jon Heyman reported they wanted him two times over. And lefty Joe Beimel is an old reliable Mystery Team standby, filling capably the role of MOOGY (Mysterious One Out Guy).
It's only a matter of time until baseball fans everywhere begin to object to the incredible amount of money Mystery Team is spending to land the finest players at every position (though the exact number is unidentified). What seemed like fun at first has turned into a monster that could threaten competitive balance in the game.
So the next time you see someone wearing the Mystery Team colors, don't just smile and indulge this lark. Your favorite player could be heading their way next. You never know.
Yahoo’s Tim Brown heard yesterday that Hiroki Kuroda was close to agreeing to a new contract. However, it’s not clear which team is nearing a deal with the right-hander. Here are the details and more of Brown’s links from around MLB:
- The Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees were among the teams that informed Brown they were not the team nearing a deal with Kuroda.
- The Dodgers didn’t scout Yoenis Cespedes in earnest or consider bidding on Yu Darvish, Brown reports. It cost the Rangers $51.7MM for the rights to negotiate with Darvish and Cespedes figures to cost tens of millions as well, so the players are too expensive for the cash-strapped Dodgers to consider.
- Carlos Beltran figures to agree to terms by Sunday. His market includes the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and a fourth team, possibly the Rays. Beltran is weighing two and three-year offers, Brown reports.
Bob Nightengale has a fantastic story up at USA Today that provides a timeline of the negotiations involving Albert Pujols and a handful of clubs at the Winter Meetings. The must-read piece includes word that Pujols' contract could be worth as much as $280MM with incentives. Here are the other highlights:
- When Dodgers manager Don Mattingly spoke to Pujols last weekend, he sensed Pujols wasn't entirely happy with the Cardinals: "You could just sense something was wrong. He was getting frustrated by it."
- The Marlins were "relentless," increasing their offer to Pujols multiple times until it reached $275MM. They expected to leave Dallas having signed Pujols, but never offered the no-trade clause he wanted.
- A mystery team (not the Angels) stepped in on Monday and offered Pujols ten years and $225MM. This mystery club "refuses to be publicly identified," writes Nightengale.
- On Tuesday, the Cardinals offered a nine-year, $210MM deal with a tenth-year vesting option. At around this time, the Marlins were eliminated from the mix (whether by Pujols or the team), narrowing the decision to the Cards and the mystery team.
- Late Tuesday, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto called agent Dan Lozano to talk Pujols. Early Wednesday morning, the Halos offered a ten-year deal worth about $250MM.
- As of Wednesday night, Lozano expected Pujols to mull the decision for a few days, but the slugger called him early this morning to accept the Angels' offer.
We heard late last night that there is "no shot" Albert Pujols will make a decision before the Winter Meetings end. Still, here's the latest on the man who has $200MM+ offers from three teams including the Cardinals, Angels, and a mystery team who would reportedly need to trade an established first baseman to clear a path for the three-time MVP:
- The Angels want both Pujols and C.J. Wilson, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Angels have offered Pujols a ten-year deal worth at least $210MM and Wilson a five-year deal worth more than $70MM, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times.
- ESPN's Buster Olney says that the Yankees are not the mystery team that's trying to set up a Pujols deal (Twitter link). That makes sense, given that Mark Teixeira has a full no-trade clause in his contract.
Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.
The Cardinals, Angels, and a third team are still involved in the bidding for Albert Pujols, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The third team is not the Marlins, who are out of the running for the slugger.
In today's round-up of Pujols rumors, we also learned that the Cardinals' offer may be for only nine years, rather than ten. It was also reported that Pujols still has three offers in excess of $200MM+ on the table, even with the Marlins out of the mix. It's unclear if the Angels have extended that significant an offer, but Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets that the Halos are "in strong." Here's the latest on Pujols:
- There's "no shot" Pujols is ready to sign before the meetings are over, or perhaps anytime soon, writes Stark. He also says that there is less and less skepticism that a third team really is in the bidding, and that the team is believed to be a club with an established first baseman it would need to trade to accommodate Pujols.
- The Angels say they can afford to sign both Pujols and Wilson, tweets USA Today's Bob Nightengale, noting that doing so would likely require $300MM.
- A decision from Pujols isn't coming before the end of the Winter Meetings, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.
- The Angels' bid for Pujols is for ten years and at least $210MM, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- A "Pujols associate" tells Jon Heyman of MLB Network that it would probably take "$40MM more" from a team besides the Cardinals for Pujols to leave St. Louis (Twitter link).
- C.J. Wilson is seriously considering signing with the Angels, in which case the Halos would almost certainly be out on Pujols, tweets Rosenthal.
- Within a piece at FOX Sports, Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi write that the Angels had a "lengthy set of negotiations" with agent Dan Lozano today.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
After a pair of meetings between the Marlins and agent Dan Lozano on Monday, Albert Pujols reportedly has a whopping ten-year offer in hand to join Jose Reyes in Miami. The Cardinals and Cubs met with Lozano yesterday as well. Here's the latest on Pujols...
- The Cubs are "definitely in" on Pujols still, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If nothing else, they want to make things hard on the Cards by increasing the bidding, says Sherman.
- The Marlins' brass completed their evening meeting with Dan Lozano, but told reporters, including Ken Rosenthal, that they had nothing to report. The Fish aren't sure if a third team is involved in the bidding, tweets Jon Paul Morosi. If there's a mystery team, it's definitely not the Phillies this year, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.
- The Mystery Team has entered the mix! USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that a third team, in addition to the Marlins and Cardinals, has made an offer to Pujols. All three offers are for ten years and at least $200MM, according to Nightengale.
- The Marlins are pushing "very, very hard" to get closure on Pujols tonight, so they can move one way or the other, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. They don't want to be used to jack up the Cardinals' bid, and want to move on to other free agents if they don't land Pujols (all Twitter links).
- The Cardinals expect resolution "sooner rather than later" and indicated that the ball is in Pujols' court, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Marlins also would like resolution soon, tweets Morosi. Meanwhile, the Marlins met with an official from the commissioner's office tonight, and a possible Pujols contract was the topic of discussion, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- A source tells Martino (Twitter link) to be "on red alert" for a Pujols deal tonight.
- The Marlins' offer to Pujols is believed to be in the neighborhood of $220MM, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports (via Twitter). Cardinals GM John Mozeliak confirmed to reporters, including B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest (Twitter link), that his team made another offer to Pujols today.
- The Marlins also remain hopeful on Pujols, having offered a "creative" contract, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- Talking to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, Cards chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. declined to offer odds on the team re-signing Pujols: "I'm hopeful, but I don't like to use the word 'optimistic.' We're realistic about the fact that it may not happen." (all Twitter links).
- Marlins president David Samson countered Spencer, saying the team will not sign a free agent to a deal including a no-trade clause.
- In a break with team policy, the Marlins are willing to give Pujols a no-trade clause, tweets Clark Spencer. This could be a major development. The Cardinals are still alive for now, tweets Joe Strauss.
- Marlins' brass concluded the 75-minute Lozano meeting without public comment.
- The Marlins are heading up to meet with Lozano and expect a Pujols decision soon, tweets Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- As you might expect, the Marlins' ten-year offer exceeds $200MM, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The Cardinals are expected to counter today.
- There is optimism that the Marlins and Lozano will work through the no-trade clause hurdle, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney, though Ken Rosenthal says the Marlins will not relent completely on the clause.
- The Cardinals do not expect to get an opportunity to match or beat an offer from another team before Pujols accepts, hears Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals have not ruled out a ten-year offer for Pujols, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi's club source says it depends on the average annual value.
- The Cubs submitted a bid for Pujols, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat says a Cubs official denied the report.
- The Marlins' reported ten-year bid includes an average annual value that tests or exceeds $20MM, writes Strauss, but it does not include full no-trade protection. The Marlins will meet with Lozano again today. One club executive who spoke to Strauss pegged the team's chances of signing Pujols at 50-50.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets a reminder that the disconnect in last offseason's negotiations between Pujols and the Cardinals wasn't the length, but the proposed annual value of $22MM.
- Not surprisingly, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears that the Marlins would trade Gaby Sanchez if Pujols lands in Miami (Twitter link). Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune thinks the Cubs would try for Sanchez in that scenario.
Tim Dierkes and Luke Adams contributed to this post.
The latest on free agent lefty C.J. Wilson...
- The Angels talked with Wilson's agent late into Monday night, tweets Scott Miller of CBS Sports. The Angels and Marlins remain in the thick of the Wilson sweepstakes, according to Jon Paul Morosi. Wilson's agent met with the Angels on Monday and will speak with the Marlins on Tuesday. The Marlins "are as aggressive as anyone" (Twitter links here).
- The Rangers are set to make their first offer of the offseason to Wilson on Tuesday, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
- The Angels are making a "serious push" for Wilson, tweets Morosi.
- According to Morosi (via Twitter), the Red Sox are still involved in the Wilson sweepstakes. Morosi's fellow FOX scribe Ken Rosenthal adds in a separate tweet that the Cubs have spoken with Garber in an attempt to gauge the market for the southpaw.
- Wilson has a six-year offer in hand from a team other than the Rangers, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Rangers, Angels, Marlins, Nationals, and a mystery team are currently in the mix, and it's known that the Nationals did not offer six years. Wilson hopes to sign this week, but won't sign with a team just because it offered six years. Agent Bob Garber will meet with the Rangers tonight or Tuesday morning. Yesterday, it was reported that Wilson had offers from four teams.
- Wilson and Roy Oswalt are represented by Garber, who said, "I have the two best clients out there. C.J. is comfortable with the process and confident with how things have been going. Roy basically said, 'Take care of C.J. I'll wait in the wings. Once C.J. and [Mark] Buehrle have signed, my market will open up."