Prince Fielder Rumors
Every year a few players join baseball’s exclusive $100MM club with free agent deals and mega-extensions. Last offseason was no different -- eight players signed nine figure deals. The contracts were all for five years or more, so it’s far too early to call them successes or failures. As the season approaches its halfway point, let’s check in on baseball’s newest $100MM contracts:
- Albert Pujols, ten-year, $240MM contract - Pujols had a painfully slow start, but he has raised his batting line to a respectable .270/.332/.461. His last 40 games have been legitimately Pujols-like: 11 home runs and an OPS over 1.000.
- Joey Votto, ten-year, $225MM extension - It's impossible to have a complete discussion about baseball's best hitters without considering Votto. The 28-year-old leads the National League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, doubles and wOBA, so this deal couldn't be going any better for the Reds.
- Prince Fielder, nine-year, $214MM contract - Fielder continues to hit at an All-Star level, though he has a relatively modest total of 12 home runs. Unfortunately for Tigers fans Mike Ilitch's bold investment hasn't been enough to keep the team above .500.
- Matt Kemp, eight-year, $160MM extension - Hamstring issues have sidelined Kemp, who was the best hitter in the National League for the first month of the season.
- C.C. Sabathia, five-year, $122MM extension - Sabathia, now on the disabled list with a strained groin, is in the midst of yet another tremendous season. He has a 3.45 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 107 innings.
- Matt Cain, five-year, $112.5MM extension - Cain's enjoying his best season as a Major Leaguer. He has a career-best ERA (2.27), strikeout rate (9.0 K/9) and walk rate (1.9 BB/9) through 107 innings. The Giants' decision to invest in Cain still looks like a good one.
- Jose Reyes, six-year, $106MM extension - Reyes' offensive numbers have dropped off across the board this year, no thanks to a 60 point dip in batting average on balls in play.
- Ryan Zimmerman, six-year, $100MM extension - Zimmerman's off to a slow start at the plate despite two home runs in his past three games. He missed two weeks with shoulder soreness earlier in the year and has just a .235/.297/.350 batting line.
It’s tempting to assume the Dodgers will spend aggressively on free agents once new ownership is in place, but Jayson Stark of ESPN.com says it’s not that simple. Here are Stark’s latest rumors, starting in Los Angeles...
- Former Braves and Nationals president Stan Kasten, a key member of the Dodgers’ new leadership group, spent conservatively on outside free agents while in Atlanta, and the Nationals didn’t start spending aggressively until Kasten had moved on. Agents say spending lavishly on free agents is not Kasten’s style.
- Longtime Braves GM John Schuerholz "wouldn't be surprised" if the Dodgers spend big here and there, but he doesn’t expect splashy signings to become habitual.
- For the first time ever, no MLB team has a payroll below $50MM.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Stark that National League teams have trouble competing for free agent sluggers who may have to become designated hitters late in their careers. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols joined American League teams on long-term deals this past offseason. “When the length of those deals got to nine and 10 years, we just couldn't compete," Melvin said.
- The Rays aren’t looking for a short-term solution behind the plate, but they’d like to add an everyday catcher who can contribute for years, according to Stark.
- Schuerholz, who’s now the Braves president, says the team hopes to retain Brian McCann long-term, even though there are “no guarantees” that’s possible.
At least one of the five groups bidding to buy the Dodgers has asked about the possibility of selling the naming rights to Dodger Stadium, reports Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Naming rights are commonplace in sports, but as Shaikin notes in his piece, it would be a poor PR move for a new owner to immediately change the name of one of baseball's most historic parks.
Here are a few more items from both the Dodgers and the Angels...
- Clayton Kershaw was "less than thrilled" about making just $500K last season, which may be part of the reason the Dodgers signed their ace to a two-year, $19MM deal, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Dodgers wanted to sign Kershaw to a four-year extension that would have covered the southpaw's first free agent season.
- Heyman also calls Matt Kemp's eight-year contract extension with the team "possibly the best financial move anyone made this winter."
- The Dodgers made an offer to Prince Fielder at the Winter Meetings for a four-year contract worth an average annual value of less than that of Alex Rodriguez, Ned Colletti tells Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Rodriguez earns an AAV of $27.5MM on his current Yankees contract but one would think that L.A.'s offer couldn't have been much lower than that, given that they were just offering four years.
- Also from Bowden (via Twitter), Fielder's agent Scott Boras said Colletti's recruiting meeting with Fielder was the best he's seen in 30 years.
- Jorge Cantu hopes to be traded to a team with corner infield needs if he can't make the Angels' roster, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. Cantu has the option of opting out of his contract with L.A. if he's in the minors on May 1. He has also considered taking "a couple of months off this summer" as his girlfriend is due to give birth to their first child in June.
- If the Angels were to offer one of their backup infielders (Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis) to the Phillies, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez speculates that the Halos could look for Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton back in such a trade. In Blanton's case, the Phils would have to cover a big chunk of his $8.5MM salary for this season.
- Earlier today we covered the hot-stove highlights of Arte Moreno's recent interview with GQ.
Here's the latest from the NL East...
- Prince Fielder said he wouldn't have minded playing for the Nationals, telling media (including Amanda Comak of the Washington Times) that he enjoyed his meeting with Nats management in December and was interested in playing with the club's young stars, particularly Bryce Harper. Fielder said he wasn't sure if Washington ever presented him with a formal contract offer.
- The Mets have signed right-hander Kevin Mulvey to a minor league contract, according to the club's minor league Twitter feed. Mulvey was originally drafted by the Mets in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was part of the trade package New York sent to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal and, in 2009, was sent by the Twins to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Jon Rauch. The D'Backs released Mulvey last week. Mulvey last pitched in the big leagues in 2010 and has a 7.90 ERA in 27 1/3 career Major League innings.
- The early impression of the Marlins' new stadium is that it favors hitters when the retractable roof is open and favors pitchers when the roof is closed, reports Robbie Levin of the Miami Herald.
- Scott Elarton's trip with his son to a Phillies/Rockies game last summer was the first step in Elarton eventually signing a minor league deal with the Phillies, reports Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The 10-year veteran last pitched in the Majors in 2008 and his last taste of pro ball was 16 games with the White Sox Triple-A affiliate in 2010.
It's only Spring Training, but Jerry Dipoto's new additions looked good in the Angels’ exhibition contest today, as Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times explains. Albert Pujols collected two hits, C.J. Wilson and Brad Mills each pitched two scoreless innings and Chris Iannetta homered. Here are today's links...
- Prince Fielder told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that joining the Tigers was 'a dream come true' that he didn't even dream about. GM Dave Dombrowski says owner Mike Ilitch's aggressiveness made the $214MM Fielder deal possible. "He is in a situation where he wants to win,'' Dombrowski said.
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon will have to pay as much as $83.3MM, a court ruled today, according to ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. Irving Picard seeks to recover that sum for losers in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. All but $1.7MM of that amount is associated with Wilpon's other businesses and charities, so in theory the Mets won't be affected substantially.
- Agent Scott Boras suggested the Mets would be better off if their current owners are replaced, Vincent M. Mallozzi of the New York Times writes. "There has to be an equation where there are requirements for ownership to perform at certain levels, and if they don’t, they would lose their right to own a club and be replaced," Boras said.
- Bryce Harper still has his doubters, but he's clear about his goals for the 2012 season, as Yahoo's Jeff Passan writes. The outfield prospect wants to push his way onto the Nationals’ roster by performing well this Spring Training. Once he gets there, he's "poised to take the mantel from [Alex Rodriguez] as the ballplayer simultaneously most respected and loathed," Passan writes.
- GM Kevin Towers says he’s on the lookout for catching depth, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter). The Diamondbacks and Miguel Montero tabled extension talks for now and Arizona doesn’t have a frontline catcher in its system.
- Padres pitching prospects Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland and Andrew Cashner have impressed assistant GM A.J. Hinch early on in Spring Training, Corey Brock of MLB.com reports.
- It sounds like the Dodgers were the runner up in the Prince Fielder bidding, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Orioles appear to have come in third behind Los Angeles and Detroit. Heyman reported in January that the Dodgers offered Fielder a seven-year deal worth over $160MM.
The Rangers’ deal with Dominican teenager Jairo Beras created a stir today, since MLB and many of its clubs thought the prospect was 16 and therefore ineligible to sign. Here are more notes from the AL West...
- Michael Young told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that he embraces his role as a utility player and wants to remain with the Rangers long-term. Young wanted out of Texas a year ago this time, but he had a big season at the plate in 2011 and appears to have settled into his new role. You’ll find him on MLBTR’s newly-released list of 2014 free agents.
- Ken Griffey Jr. said he told GM Jack Zduriencik that he’d put in a good word for the Mariners if Prince Fielder asked him about Seattle this offseason, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. In the end Fielder didn’t ask and Griffey left him alone. “Prince is his own man,” Griffey said. “You can't jeopardize relationships. If he had asked me about it, I would have talked about it.”
- The Athletics want to take a real look at Josh Donaldson at third base and are unlikely to explore the free agent market for third basemen any time soon, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Miguel Tejada has said he’d like the chance to return to Oakland, but a reunion seems unlikely.
- Jorge Cantu’s contract with the Angels includes a May 1st opt-out date, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com tweets.
Jason Varitek is facing a very difficult decision, and the catcher has been considering the very difficult reality of retirement, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Varitek, who turns 40 in April, would seem to be a good fit in Minnesota. The Twins will likely carry three catchers as Joe Mauer will need time to DH and rest and Ryan Doumit will mostly DH while also backing up Mauer.
Varitek isn't the only veteran wondering about his baseball future. Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, and Vladimir Guerrero also hope to continue playing in 2012. Here's more from Cafardo..
- There is a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal John Lannan to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, with the Halos putting Mike Trout in center field. The Nats beat Lannan in arbitration last week and were said to be aggressively shopping the left-hander.
- Alternatively, the Nats could move Jayson Werth to center and sign a right fielder. Cafardo adds that it now appears that Yoenis Cespedes is not in their plans and they have cooled on B.J. Upton.
- Javier Vazquez is retired for now, but Cafardo wonders if a team could convince him to play. An AL GM remarked that Vazquez would be a perfect fourth or fifth starter on a contending team and believes that the pitcher looks as good as he's ever been.
- Scott Boras is no longer representing Manny Ramirez. Ramirez signed on with Boras in early 2008 and the agent negotiated the slugger's two-year, $45MM contract with the Dodgers the following year.
- Boras wound up receiving eight offers in total for Prince Fielder, including the winning bid from the Tigers.
- A couple of agents are frustrated after dealing with the Red Sox front office/ownership lately as compared to what they were used to in the past. However, there has been quite a bit of praise for GM Ben Cherington.
- Right-hander Brandon Webb hasn't given up on pitching and according to one American League executive, the plan is for the 32-year-old to throw for teams sometime in March.
- Mark Prior is also looking to attempt one more comeback. The right-hander, who spent some of last season with the Yankees, had surgery for a sports hernia and the problem isn't completely corrected. Like Webb, Prior could work out for teams as early as March.
- Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger was supposed to be in Red Sox minor league camp but instead ripped up his elbow long-tossing over the winter. The veteran will unfortunately miss the season.
- Cafardo feels that the Red Sox missed an opportunity to sign Edwin Jackson to a good value deal at one year, $10MM and shouldn’t let Roy Oswalt slip away now.
- The Indians had interest in Jackson but "were not close" to matching the contract Jackson received from the Nationals, reports Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
- Jackson turned down a three-year, $30MM offer to sign his one-year deal with Washington, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at how Jackson, Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez (all Scott Boras clients) settled for "pillow contracts" this winter to better position themselves for larger deals next year.
- Prince Fielder, however, never considered a one-year deal, Boras tells James Schmehl of MLive.com. Boras also says Fielder could have signed earlier in the offseason but was on vacation with his wife, delaying his meetings with interested teams.
- Jimmy Rollins' $11MM option for 2015 will vest if he makes 600 plate appearances in 2014, or if he makes a combined 1100 PAs in 2013 and 2014, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter link).
- Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall says he has been contacted by some potential Dodgers owners about a job in Los Angeles, but Hall tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he's very happy with the Snakes. Hall has four years remaining on his contract with Arizona.
- David Ortiz's arbitration case with the Red Sox is analyzed from both sides by former Astros president Tal Smith, in conversation with Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
- Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm begins a series looking at which players were the best values at each position over the last two decades, starting with catcher, first base and second base.
- "The Indians’ bullpen has much more flexibility and depth heading into camp this year," writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian in his breakdown of the Tribe's relief options.
The Blue Jays held their State of the Franchise event tonight and president Paul Beeston, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell offered insights into the team’s past moves and future plans. The details:
- Beeston expects the Blue Jays to make the postseason two or three times in the upcoming five seasons, Mike Wilner of Sportsnet Radio FAN 590 tweets.
- Beeston said the Blue Jays did not view Prince Fielder as a fit because of his contract demands, Wilner tweets. Fielder signed for nine years, but the Blue Jays don’t offer players anything more than five.
- Anthopoulos said two free agents turned down more years and more money from the Blue Jays to sign elsewhere this offseason, Wilner tweets.
- Anthopoulos said the following about Carlos Beltran: "some guys don't want to play on turf, no matter how much you pay them. Some guys don't want to DH." (quote via Wilner on Twitter)
- Farrell said former MLB catcher Kevin Cash will be an advance scout for the Blue Jays in 2012, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star tweets. The Blue Jays signed Cash as an amateur free agent in 1999 and he played in Toronto for three years. He last appeared in the Major Leagues in 2010.