Prince Fielder is a Real Possibility for the Jays

image courtesy of fantasyknuckleheads.com

I recently posted an article about Prince Fielder possibly being a big target for the Jays this off season. Since Adam Dunn is now signed, he can be scratched off the list of possible additions for the Jays this off season, although we already knew he was a long shot when Alex Anthopolous announced additions would likely be made through trade, not the FA market. Speaking of trades, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Blue Jays were one of 3 teams inquiring on Mark Reynolds. I pointed him out as a possibility earlier this off season for the Jays, although I do believe that this was entirely preliminary evaluations for the Jays.

There are better options on the trade market, including Prince Fielder, that may intrigue the Jays much more but that will also come at a much greater cost. Knowing the price of the alternative – Mark Reynolds – before making an attempt to deal for the likes of Fielder makes perfect sense since it lets you know at what point you need to step back and look at these other alternatives. Both fit the Jays power mold, but Fielder is obviously the better hitter and better long-term fit if the Jays can sign him to a lengthy deal.

Prince’s 2010 season was definitely a “down year”, but he still represents one of the best hitters and power threats on the trade market at this time. The remaining power threats on the FA market include Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche, Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Magglio Ordonez, Jayson Werth, and if you still believe in him – Manny Ramirez. Beltre and Werth may be demanding way more than they’re worth this off season, while there are some value bets that can be made on Lance Berkman, Manny Ramirez, and Magglio Ordonez. However, you can see from this list that the least risky route may in fact be addition through trade.

A recent article by Paul White of Daily Pitch lays out the Prince Fieldersituation and leads to his opinion that Fielder will not be traded before opening day – mostly due to Scott Boras wanting to maximize value by getting teams to bid against one-another. The more teams involved, the more money that can be had. While it is a great article in terms of laying out the situation, I disagree with his assessment of teams involved in dealing for Prince. There is no way the Dbacks can afford him or have the talent to deal for him – unless Justin Upton is the prime piece in a deal – and the same holds true for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners, meanwhile, have Justin Smoakat 1B and value D more than anything, so they’re out in my opinion. The Mets have little money to spend and already have a pretty decent 1B option in Ike Davis, so why spend more for Prince? That, along with the Dunn signing with the White Sox, lessens the field of likely landing spots to the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays. I would argue that with the big contracts soon to be handed to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, as well as possibly Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have their hands full and already have Jorge Posada slated to DH 80% of the time, making adding Fielder an unlikely possibility for the Yankees. Not impossible, but unlikely.

Let’s look at each option:

The Cubs – What are they going to deal to the Brewers? Their minors system is very weak and they play in the same division, so I make this an extremely unlikely destination.

The Texas Rangers – They already have a ton of power and seem more concentrated on their pitching. If they land Cliff Lee as is fairly possible, they would definitely have to pass on Prince and his price tag unless they want his as a rental player. If that’s the case, they definitely have the goods to deal for him, as the Brewers want pitcher and the Rangers system is stacked with strong arms. If they miss out on Cliff Lee, I’d definitely place them within the top 3 candidates to land Prince as Nolan Ryan and the new ownership seem intent to spend what it takes to make the Rangers a powerhouse in the West. I make them a fairly likely destination overall for Prince’s services.

The Baltimore Orioles – It seems like every year they are part of big-time negotiations but come out of them with nothing to show for it. They were involved in the Mark Texeira sweepstakes finishing as one of the top 3 destinations at that time for the slugger, just as an example of their budget room and willingness to spend if the player is right. I’m not sure if they have the goods in the minors to deal for Prince, but the Orioles should be taken seriously as bidders for his services. As they look across the AL East and see big hitting 1B across the board, they should be willing to make a move in order to improve what has been a weak position for them in the lineup in recent years. They are the wild card team in my opinion, but I don’t know if they’ll be willing to deal their soft pitching to acquire him, so it’s still a small possibility in comparison to other options.

The Boston Red Sox – They can afford him, they want to shake up the lineup and are losing Victor Martinez and possibly Adrian Beltre this off season, and they have some good looking minors pitchers to deal – few, but some. They seem more focused on landing Adrian Gonzalez at this time, but if that falls through, they’ll definitely be looking to the Brewers and Prince Fielder. In the Red Sox, Scott Boras has a team he’s dealt with before and one of the top 5 budgets in all of MLB depending on how the spending goes this off season. Therefore, the likeliness of an extension for Fielder in a deal would increase tremendously if a deal were made.

The Los Angeles Dodgers – It seems unlikely to me that they would get involved since they do have an option at 1B in James Loney, but his lack of power has really hurt their offense in recent years. They may lack the money right now to extend Prince, but they could use him as a rental option and hope that the divorce situation settles itself out and frees up enough cash to extend him. I seriously doubt they have enough to deal to the Brewers unless they decide to make Chad Billingsleya major part of a deal. Their minors pitching is shallow overall and they deal James McDonald away last season, hurting their depth that much more. Having said that, they would still have Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garlandif they deal Billingsley. If they signed one FA after a deal for Prince, their rotation would still be very competitive, so you can’t discount them as a possibility for a Prince Fielderdeal at this point. I would add that if they miss out on all power threat FAs this off season and Prince is still with the Brewers, their chances of aggressively pursuing him would increase 10 fold.

The biggest reason to include the Dodgers is how aggressive they’ve been thus far this off season. They have spent lots on Lilly, Kuroda, Garland, and most recently $12 million over 3 years to Juan Uribe. Obviously, the Dodgers have some newly freed money to spend and are intent on spending it to win in 2011.

Those are the teams I see as most prominently involved in any Prince Fielder chase, along with Toronto.

If Alex Anthopolous and the Jays are willing to show Prince the money and year commitment he is looking for – an overpay a little – they may be forced to accept the extension if a trade is agreed to between the Brewers and the Jays. As was the case when the Jays dealt Roy Halladayand allowed for contract negotiations to take place between him and the Phillies, they can ask for the same from the Brewers. If they can sign him, great, they pull  the trigger and get the deal done. If not, the deal is off the table and the Jays look back at the drawing table and ask the Dbacks if they’re price for Mark Reynolds is still the same or other options they’ve identified across MLB. There is a roadblock in getting Mark Reynolds, however, in that Reynolds has the Jays on his no-trade list. Therefore, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, and Magglio Ordonez may become the only viable options for the Jays if they are willing to sign for non-ludicrous amounts of money and years (1).

The thing about the extension, now that Adam Dunnhas signed a pretty lucrative deal with the Chicago White Sox at 4 years and $56 million for an average of $14 million per season, is that it gives the Jays some leverage in contract negotiations with Prince when seeking to get him signed to an extension. Most would argue that Dunn finally got the right kind of representation after being forced to settle the last time he was a FA and will do very well in a lineup that needed some pop.

As an older but premier power hitter, Adam Dunn gives the Jays a floor to work with. They know that extending Prince would cost more than the $14 million average Adam got, so they can work from there. I’m just going to throw a few numbers out there because it just isn’t any fun to not look at the possible costs involved in such a huge deal. The Jays could, during a grace period, sign Prince to a 5-7 year contract extension at a rate of anywhere between $18-$25 million per season, dependent on the length of the deal – more if the deal is short, less if it is long.

I would argue that it may be really hard for the Prince Fielder camp – even for Scott Boras – to refuse a 5 year $125 million extension from the Blue Jays or any other competitive team. This would average out to $25 million per season. Do I think the Jays would go that far? Probably not. A more likely scenario would see the Jays offer 6 years at $20-22 million per season, for a total of $120-132 million. They’d be getting Prince locked up through his prime hitting years – from 27 through 33 years old – and would be able to seek another option at that time. You may not agree with the numbers in terms of salary, but I do believe that Scott Boras and Prince Fielder are set on getting Prince extended for at least 6 years if they agree to do so since they perceive forgoing FA as a major concession.

Remember, the Jays don’t have to make a move, they’re just looking to improve the lineup if they can. Nothing is crucial or critical at this point, therefore it is also possible that they look at Prince Fielder as a rental option. They can bring him on board for the 2011 season and try to get him under contract for an extended period during the year. If it works out, great! If not, they get what Alex and his scouts love most – assuming he is a Type A FA – numerous draft picks that allow the Jays to get cheaper and more talented if the scouts do their jobs.

I’m going to do something here that I hate doing – come up with a viable trade / contract scenario that would land Prince Fielderin a Jays uniform in 2010. Many, if not most, will have some issues with my assessment, but I’m doing it purely in fun and in order to attempt to get a sense for whether or not it is an option for Alex Anthopolous and the Jays.

Here’s what I came up with:

To the Brewers –

SP Mark Rzepczynski

C Travis d’Arnaud

LF Eric Thames, RF Adam Loewen or CF Darin Mastroianni (AA), and

1B Michael McDade (HiA) or David Cooper (AA).

To the Jays –

1B Prince Fielder.

I do believe that the Brewers would love to add a higher rated pitcher such as Brett Cecil or Shaun Marcum, but since the Jays are looking to keep the core of their SP together, I don’t think they’d be able to ask for as much along with one of those pitchers which would minimize the number of returns for them and heighten risk as a result. If they acquired Brett Ceciland McDade, instead of the package above, for example, they’d be entirely dependent on those 2 players working out as expected. If Brett sustains an injury and Michael doesn’t pan out, they’d have very little to show for dealing Prince. By asking for Marc instead of Brett, they’re enhancing the rest of the deal in terms of numbers and can therefore minimize the risk that the returns won’t pan out.

With the number of draft picks the Jays had in 2010 and the number they’re expected to have in 2011, and their renewed interest in the international market, this deal makes a ton of sense in terms of talent dealt. Sure, it’s a substantial amount, but it still leaves the Jays as a very healthy franchise with more than enough talent to make the jump into the holes left behind within the affiliates.

Don’t get me wrong, the package listed above is just a very unlikely example, but I do believe that the talent the Brewers will look for will be spread through many players, not concentrated on 1 or 2 players. They definitely need some help at catcher and have little in their system, and Travis would go a long way to rectifying that deficiency for them. They’re sick of losing players to higher bidders, and rightfully so, and seem ready to depend on a youth movement to get the job done.

Once again, however, all of the talk above depends on 1 vital part – could the Jays get Fielder and Scott Boras to agree to a contract extension should they be able to pry him away from the Brewers? I have absolutely no idea if they could or couldn’t, and what Alex Anthopolous’s policy will be in acquiring players represented by Scott. However, having seen how aggressive Alex has been on all other markets, I can’t see him saying no to a trade simply due to representation. It seems to me that if he and his team like a player enough, they’ll make sure the price is paid and that the player is acquired. If that’s the case, let’s get Prince on board and take the lineup to the next level.

The lineup with Prince included -

Rajai DavisYunel EscobarJose BautistaPrince FielderAdam LindVernon WellsAaron HillTravis SniderJ.P. Arencibia

Would this be the best lineup in the AL East? If not, it would be pretty close and as close as the Jays have been in a very long time to having the strongest lineup in the majors. With speed at the top and great OBP hitters ahead of Jose and Prince, opposing pitchers would be constantly on the ropes through the lineup. When your #7-8-9 hitters can all belt more than 25 HRs a piece, you know you’ve got something special brewing – no pun intended. I say go get him Alex, extension or not! He, or even Adrian Gonzalez if he becomes available, would take the Jays to a new level and would sell a ton of tickets in 2011 – and hopefully well beyond that point. Whether it happens before or during the 2011 season, I really do expect that the Jays will add one major bat like Fielder’s to the lineup. My vote goes to Prince and his 50+ HR capabilities.

Topics: Adam Loewen, Darin Mastroianni, David Cooper, Eric Thames, Marc Rzepczynski, Michael McDade, Travis D'Arnaud

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  • babbelball

    Adam Loewen = Zero Trade Value, Every Major League team recently passed on him for free.

    And David Cooper has only slightly more value than Loewen, which is to say virtually none.

    Leave those two out and it’s the same package, a decent package, AND you don’t look like you are overvaluing prospects because they are your own.

  • Mat Germain

    I think Loewen has trade value because he has progressively improved to the point that he led the AFL in HRs with 5 and hit .333 with a .438 OBP, .667 SLG, and 1.104 OPS within 54 ABs there. Remember, Adam had to start from scratch after his pitching career went South, so his progression is actually pretty impressive. He has some speed with 17 SBs this year in NH, held his own with a decent .351 OBP and still hit a decent 31 doubles to go along with 13 HRs. He’s not going to win any batting titles, but he is a serviceable RF with a decent arm (he had 10 assists in 2010 to go along with only 4 errors) and has enough potential for a team to be interested.

    The 2011 season is where Adam will show whether he can truly make the leap to The Show or not, and I do think some teams believe he will do so at a decent level.

    As for Cooper, you won’t get much of a fight from me, but it seems that a whole lot of scouts love the guy. I’ve received lots of emails telling me about cracks in his character and that he hasn’t impressed them at all with his bat. Having said that, he did hit 20 HRs in AA after a horrific 2009 that had him hit only 10, so he did show some improvement. He also cut down his SO by 18 from 2009 levels even though he had 15 more ABs. His D is excellent as well, so he could become a 1B with as much pop as Lyle Overbay or slightly more if he can add some muscle.

    If I’m the Brewers dealing a franchise type 1B, I want a 1B in return. I know McDade is most likely more interesting due to his pop potential, but some teams will be scared off by his weight issues, particularly in the NL where small ball is used more often. That, and the fact that Cooper is closer to being MLB ready, are the reasons why I decided to include Cooper in the mix. He’s not my favorite 1B, but there are still plenty of people who are big fans of his.

    For sure we over value our picks, but we should since we are fans of them until they leave the team we cheer for. I do agree that d’Arnaud and Rzep would be the big pieces, but the others provide the acquiring team with some decent pieces that help ensure the deal works out without blowing up in their faces altogether.

    Hope that makes sense!

  • babbelball

    Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    While all that stuff is true about Loewen, and I am truly rooting for him, he’s been left unprotected for the rule 5 draft. So anyone can have him for $50 000, and that means zero trade value.

    Keep up the good work.