During my time as a baseball blogger, I’ve learned that if fans of America’s pastime are going to geek out over anything during the off season, it’s going to be caused by one of two things: 1) A player acquisition, be it through free agency or trade; or 2) A paper doll cut out. That’s why we got the infinitely talented graphics department at The Score to combine the two as a means of supporting our ongoing pursuit of attention and page views.
Ahead of the winter meetings next week, we’re going to take a look at five of the top players available this off season and mention some of their potential destinations. After looking at Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Carlos Beltran and Yu Darvish we finish our vintage image nostalgia today with none other than Prince Fielder.
We’ve written a lot about Prince Fielder in the lead up and early going of the off season. Probably more than Albert Pujols. He’s an interesting character. Not just because he’s supremely talented, but because he’s proven to be so incredibly durable despite having a frame unlike any baseball player in the history of baseball.
As much as we might try to project the likely future of Fielder’s true talent based on his size, it’s impossible because there are no comparisons. I tried to find something, someone to compare to Fielder, but only challenges can be found in such a search.
First of all, the records for players’ weight don’t often change from their rookie season. For instance, on Baseball Reference, Barry Bonds is still listed as a 6’1″ outfielder, weighing in at a spry 185 lbs. And even then, if accurate weights were listed, surely 250 lbs would have a different impact on the career of a 5’8″ player compared to a 6’8″ player.
As such, Adam Dunn is the only position player with a weight listed above Fielder’s and he’s seven inches taller than the free agent first baseman. Jim Thome is listed at 250 lbs, but I recall recently seeing his very first home run, hit at Yankee stadium, and back then he wouldn’t have weighed that much if he was soaking wet (while carrying a fifty pound weight in each hand as he rounded the bases). On that note, who’s to say that putting on weight throughout one’s career is easier or harder on your body? There are too many variables and not enough examples to say that heavier players do or don’t age well, let alone say anything definitive about Prince Fielder specifically.
What we can say is this: If Prince Fielder signs a contract on par with what the Boston Red Sox gave to the two year older, but better defensively, Adrian Gonzalez, he would earn $154 million over seven years. In order to make this contract worthwhile, in terms of other free agent contracts that have been handed out, Fielder would have to put up something close to 27 wins above replacement over the length of his contract.
149 players in baseball history have accumulated 27 or more WAR from the age of 28 to 34. Keeping in mind the difficulties in tracking a player’s weight, of the149 who did so, only 32 of them are listed as weighing 200 lbs or more. The total number falls to eight when we look at players with a listed weight of 225 lbs or more. Then, only two players weighing 250 lbs or more in the history of baseball have put up more than 27 wins above replacement from the age of 28 to 34: Jim Thome and Frank Howard. Two things should be remembered when considering this: 1) Only 27 position players have a recorded weight of 250 lbs or greater; and 2) Prince Fielder is listed as weighing 275 lbs.
Once again, there isn’t a clear answer. On one hand, it would be surprising if Fielder didn’t offer a team as much value as Robin Ventura did after his 28th birthday. On the other hand, there is no precedent for a player of Fielder’s size and talent playing at his level. For what it’s worth, and I don’t really think it’s worth much, Prince’s father Cecil Fielder had his peak season at the age of 26, and then, after the age of 30, never again recorded a single win above replacement in any given season.
Of course, the father and son appear to be on very different career paths:
As far as predictions go, it’s difficult for me to shake the conclusion I came to when considering the Toronto Blue Jays as potential suitors for Fielder: the Texas Rangers are a much better fit. As I wrote yesterday:
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.
It’s interesting to me that FanGraphs’ contract crowd sourcing came up with a seven year deal worth $147 million because of the Gonzalez contract that we’ve already mentioned. I can’t help but feel as though the Rangers will end up paying Fielder at least as much as Gonzalez over the next seven years. And I also find it hard to believe he’d ever make them regret it.
*I know RoboCop is set in Detroit, but it was filmed in Texas. To make up for any potential confusion: