Prince “The Statement” Fielder

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (and latent Detroit Tigers homerism) has a post up this morning suggesting that the Toronto Blue Jays could make a statement this off season by signing Prince Fielder to a multiple year contract.

I’m assuming that statement would be: “Hey, look, we just signed Prince Fielder to a multiple year contract.”

Okay, that’s maybe a bit harsh, especially to someone who quite rightly supports Alan Trammel’s bid for the Hall of Fame, but Morosi is making an obvious statement. And one that we’ve gone over several times before.

If we look at the combined numbers over the last three seasons, Prince Fielder has been the fifth best first baseman in baseball according to fWAR. The players better than him are all perennial MVP candidates: Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez. Not that this is at all surprising, but Fielder is a very good player. Any team that signs him this off season will be making a statement, because he would be an improvement for more than 83% of the teams that comprise Major League Baseball.

So, what’s so special about the Toronto Blue Jays? Morosi describes four characteristics specific to the team to back up his claim:

  1. Payroll flexibility;
  2. Roster construction;
  3. Competitive window; and
  4. Attendance impact.

Let’s take a deeper look at these characteristics.

Payroll Flexibility

Sure. The Blue Jays have the richest owners in baseball and play in one of the largest markets. And despite what fans might assume from the small amount of money the team has committed to payroll, they’ve already shown a willingness to spend on the international free agent market, on draft picks and on trades in order to bring back better prospects.

Roster Construction

Probably. While Morosi might be overstating things a little bit when he suggests:

In Jose Bautista, they have a superstar. In Ricky Romero, they have an ace. In Brett Lawrie, they have a stud prospect.

He could have also said that in Adam Lind, they have one of the worst first basemen in the league. Or at second base, they have no one at all, and in left field they have a massive question mark. And that’s not even tackling the back end of the rotation or the bullpen. However, Morosi’s point stands that:

A 3-4 of Bautista and Fielder would be about the best wheelhouse anywhere. The Blue Jays would be able to mash with the Red Sox, Yankees and any other lineup in baseball.

The team still has holes to fill, but those holes would be easier to fill with Fielder already a part of the lineup. That’s not going to happen as Morosi suggests, by trading Lind. His value is at an all time low, even with double the number of RBIs that Morosi quotes. It means that lesser options are more acceptable given the amount of production that Fielder can provide.

Competitive Window

Definitely. Jose Bautista is 31 years old, and probably at the peak of his value. If you’re not going to trade the best position player that the franchise has had in a long while, then it would be ridiculous not to build around him right now. Like it or not, Bautista’s talent level is going to decline, and his numbers will go along with it. To use a metaphor I don’t really understand, but seems fitting: Why not strike while the iron is hot?

Attendance Impact

Not really. I don’t believe that Morosi has the grasp he thinks he has on the people of Toronto when he suggests that:

It will take a massive event for many Canadians to believe the economic conditions in baseball are such that their lone national team can win the World Series again. The signing of a top-of-the-market free agent like Fielder — or Albert Pujols, for that matter — should convince them.

Missing out on the playoffs for the last two decades has far more to do with the general apathy toward baseball than bitter feelings from the labour dispute in 1994. In fact, if recent television ratings are anything to go by, that apathy is turning to empathy even without the addition of Fielder.

Even if you believe Morosi has his fingers closer to the pulse of Blue Jays nation than me, history tells us that new additions to a lineup don’t bring greater attendance. Wins remain the only thing that brings bigger crowds to the ballpark.


So, it’s obvious, right? The Blue Jays and Fielder are a perfect match.

Not even close.

All of the accurate claims that Morosi makes here could be applied to the Texas Rangers. Let’s take a look at that team.

The ownership has the money, thanks to purchasing the team in bankruptcy court and immediately turning around to sell the team’s television rights to FOX in a lucrative deal. Their roster, basically as is, has twice made it to the World Series. The one glaring hole in their lineup is at first base where Mitch Moreland was one of the few regular first baseman worse than Adam Lind this past season.

And their competitive window might not be as open as some think. In addition to Michael “Heart and Soul MVP” Young’s declining skills, the team is going to have to seriously question the necessity of locking up the often injured Josh Hamilton to an extension that keeps him from free agency. Signing Prince Fielder might make that decision a whole lot easier.

Consider this: Prince Fielder has missed 12 games since 2006. Josh Hamilton more than three times that number this year, two times that number in 2010, and six times that number in 2009.

If Fielder would consider the Blue Jays over the Seattle Mariners because of the difference in competitiveness, then what about the Rangers, or for that matter, what about the Washington Nationals, who also share several of the characteristics that Morosi attributes to the Toronto.

It’s swell to think that the Blue Jays are the most viable option for a player of Fielder’s ilk, but the reality of the situation is that despite all being quiet on the free agent front, there are several teams that would be just as good, if not a better fit for Fielder’s services.

Comments (32)

  1. I would be okay with signing Fielder only because I don’t think Lind will come close to his 2009 season again; also, some stupid NL GM will look at his RBI totals and give us a nice piece for him.

  2. Honestly, I could see Prince being a great addition in Toronto. What I don’t agree with from Morosi’s article is that the Jays could then possibly deal Lind to the Cubs for Garza. I mean I’d do that deal straight-up but there’s no way the Cubs would. If they don’t get Pujols or Fielder why would they give up their ace for less of a first baseman?

  3. We could have Lind and Fielder. As I recall Lind had his best season playing left field. EE could 1b/DH along with fielder.

    • Lind in LF is horrific to watch. Why would we move him back after a year of teaching him to play 1B? And to block Snider? No thanks, would rather trade Lind.

  4. I don’t think there is a doubt that fielder makes the Jays’ offense a legit competitor in the AL east for the next 2-3 years at least.

    With the pitching that should be arriving over that time frame there is a persuasive argument to fill a hole now and be ready for success in the next few years.

    At some point collecting guys who outperform their contracts isn’t enough. In fact, isn’t the point of good/cheap contracts the flexibility to use the saved money?

  5. Fuck it, we don’t have to pay his salary. (Just as long as the people who do raise the overall payroll and won’t let his salary significantly handcuff the org payroll in the future).

    • Oh, but we do pay for his salary, in watching the team being unable to afford other players in the future.

      • Well that was my point in brackets. If it doesn’t prevent us from doing so then go for it. Management always teases us with the money will be there in the future.

      • why wouldn’t we be able to afford other players? does prince project to make $50 million per season? This is just crazy. How much does even a $20 million contract restrict payroll?

  6. I disagree that the additon of Prince would put this team into contention. I don’t think the rotation will be good enough next year.

    • why would that have to be the ONLY move? Can’t we add Prince AND someone else? Can’t we add Prince AND continue to make trades? Or does adding Prince fielder mean AA goes on vacation?

  7. Striking while the iron is hot:

    On Prince:
    Adding elite talent, when it costs you nothing but money (and a pick that may or may not pan out), is never a bad idea. This isn’t a Gary Matthews Jr. scenario. This is a proven player, still young, with (at least) 5 seasons of 900+ OPS left in him (if Papi hasn’t really declined to an unpayable level by 36, why should Fielder?). The cash will not restrict flexibility, especially if the Jays are winning. Do the Yanks regret Texeira’s contract? A-Rod’s?
    Adding a player that improves your for money and a pick, doesn’t restrict filling the other holes you suggest are more pertinent. Does signing Fielder mean we can’t sign KJ? No. Is a team that fields Lind/KJ better than a team that fields Fielder/Valbuena/Hudson/Bartlett/Other sort of serviceable second baseman? Not in my opinion.

    I guess the real question is “what’s at risk?” Fielder fades and he’s owed money while he sits on the bench or is released? Money that could have been spent…where? On the controllable players coming through the system that have forced him out? I don’t see where the Jays lose here in adding 35-40 HR, 90 BB and some decent protection for JBau. That is what you get if he lives up to expectations, which is just as likely as him fading out.
    I don’t think any successful franchise is built on “making sure we plan for the least likely scenario to look like a fool” (I’ve never heard anyone say this, sorry for the quotations). Teams win championships by taking risks and them risks panning out. I think the Jays have VERY little to lose in signing Prince.

    • correction:
      “Adding a player that improves your TEAM for money and a pick,…”

      to clarify:
      “Fielder fades and he’s owed money while he sits on the bench or is released?”
      This would be a risk that I would be willing to take. Say it happens in year 7 of a 9 year contract. That means 7 years of earning your cash. Long enough to rebuild?

  8. The Blue Jays payroll commitments for 2012 so far appears to be in the range of about $40 million (plus a bunch of guys who are arbitration eligible not included in that figure). Taking into account the arbitration eligible players they will have about $50 – $55 million committed to the 2012 payroll. They still need to find a 2B and a closer. We don’t know what their plans are to fill those roles, but let’s assume (based upon nothing) that they spend $15 million combined to fill those two roles. That brings the grand total to $65-$70 million… When I look at that, I find it hard to accept the argument that the Blue Jays shouldn’t commit $20+ million a season to Fielder because it may hamstring future flexibility. The numbers do not bear out that argument. Even with Fielders salary, the team would be barely in the middle of the pack in terms of team payrolls…. and yes, I understand that the arbitration-eligible players are only going to continue to get more expensive every year, but even adjusting for that the team will only be in the top 50% of team payrolls.

  9. just because the rangers could use him too, doesn’t negate morosi’s points – prince is a match for the blue jays right now.

    the rangers will probably spend on josh hamilton over prince (who can play a premium defensive position), while neither the M’s nor the Nat’s are a Prince away from contention.

  10. Let’s take a deeper look at your finding’s…

    Payroll flexibility:

    Beginning next season, the new CBA doesn’t allow the Jays to overspend on the draft and international signings. That alone frees up more “millions” for the club to spend on current MLB players. You take $5 mil or so here and there and you package that with another sum to get an elite player. I’m not talking Jamey Carroll at 2-years/$6 mil. You acknowledge the large market and deep pockets of Rogers…but don’t acknowledge the effect that can have? That’s exactly what you want…rich owners and large markets. The Rays way of thinking is no longer feasible under the new CBA. I think JPM stresses that change in his column.

    Roster Construction:

    JPM is right in his assesment of Bautista (superstar), Romero (ace) and Lawrie (stud prospect). You can’t question that. Lind (“one of the worst 1B’s in the MLB”) gets packaged with a prospect for a Garza/Gonzalez.. 3-4 becomes so powerful, that you can take another year to figure out just what the hell you have in Thames/Snider. Put them in the 7/8-hole. Someone wins that battle. And you can afford to let it play out, because guess what, you got hitters/power surrounding them. Your top 3 then looks like Romero/Morrow/Garza, followed by whatever 2 (heck, sign Bueherle) show up in camp. Hypotheticals, I know, but that’s what all this is (you mention all these other teams…but don’t actually mention ALL THE OTHER TEAMS).

    Competitive Window:

    “Why not strike while the iron is hot.” Exactly. Bautista’s production will decline…in 3-4 years. he’s 31, that’s a prime rib. The influx of youth mixed with Fielder/Bautista sets the team up swell for the next 5 years.

    Attendance impact:

    As you state, wins bring more people to the gates. Lind’s WAR last season: 0.7. Fielder’s WAR last season: 5.2. I understand there is a glaring hole at 2B and the Jays need more relief help than Haiti (kidding), but the addition of Fielder has an immediate impact on attendance in a way Halladay had an impact every 5th day. You saw Miller Park, it was packed. That was Fielder/Braun…not Greinke/Marcum.


    I’m playing devil’s advocate.

  11. chicks dig the long ball

  12. 5. He’s better then Heath Bell

  13. SO…Who thinks we will realistically get Prince Fielder in a Brand Spankin’ new beautiful Blue Jays uniform??

  14. Let’s trade half the farm for McClutchen. Sign Fielder, trade for Garza and then sign Darvish. Our farm since would still be top 10!?

    Realistically, I would love Fielder in a Jays uniform, having that legit two-man combo. I remember when Vdubs & Delgado teared it up together, Manny/Ortiz. Yankees 1-9. I want to see two absolute mashers 3-4 again on this team. But I don’t see it happening, if it does I’ll be more then ecstatic.

  15. Your conclusion doesn’t answer Morosi at all. Instead your conclusion should read as follows:

    “It is certainly in the interest of the Jays to sign Fielder, and if they can get him for 20/year on a 5-6 year deal, then they should do it. However, don’t get overexcited about it making sense for the Jays, because it also makes sense for other teams. Further, these other teams are more likely to sign him (the Nats clearly more willing to overpay), and Fielder is likely to be more attracted to them (the Rangers are more clearly set to win).”

    Your reasoning above leads to that conclusion, it does not logically lead to the result that the Jays should not go after him.

  16. We are so quick to forget that Lind was almost an all-star, had a fuckin incredible first half… Why are we writing off Lind completely? And for that matter, I still think Thames has potential. He’s young and has a great swing, speed, a good eye…. Things can only get better, right?

  17. In my opinion it really is a fantastic 1

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