The market for free agent first baseman Prince Fielder has been a strange one so far this offseason.  Despite being one of the preeminent sluggers in the game, very few teams are lining up to offer Fielder a boat-load of cash.  The rumours seem to change daily.  One day, the Cubs are the front-runners, the next day, they deny even talking to him.  The other teams who are said to be interested aren’t ones that come to mind when talking of big-money players.

According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Cubs are indeed pursuing Fielder but the frontrunners remain the Dodgers and the Mariners.  Other rumours have linked the slugger to the Blue Jays and even the incumbent Brewers, but neither rumour has “realized traction.”*

Fielder’s camp is seeking ten years, but the general consensus is that he’ll get significantly less in tenure, although the annual salary may be similar to Pujols’ roughly $25-million per year.  If this is the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if a team like the Cardinals threw their bright red hat into the ring.

Fielder is at least four years younger than Pujols and had a better year than the ex-Cardinal in 2011.  Fielder posted a .408 wOBA and 5.5 fWAR as compared to Pujols who posted a .385 wOBA and a 5.1 fWAR.  Pujols also saw a dramatic decrease in his walk-rate last season, while Prince’s walk-rate is still amongst the best in baseball.  Obviously, Pujols has a much stronger track record, but he appears to be hitting his decline phase while Fielder, body issues aside, still has several years of his prime left.  It stands to reason that over the next 3-5 years, Fielder will provide at least as much if not more value than Pujols.  If a team like St. Louis can grab Fielder on a seven- or eight-year deal, they could end up being better than if they had retained their franchise player for the next decade.

And the rest from the MLB sizzling hob…

According to both Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal, the Toronto Blue Jays were apparently the other “finalist” in the Mat Latos trade sweepstakes. Neither have any idea who was in the Jays’ return package, but it was not as strong as the one offered by Cincinnati.  Imagine for just one minute a rotation that includes Ricky Romero, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, and Mat Latos. Now I have to go clean up a mess.

According to everybody’s favourite ex-GM Jim “The Cross” Bowden, the Padres are interested in Cubs’ starter Matt Garza for a package that includes first baseman Anthony Rizzo [Twitter]. Rizzo has been made expendable by San Diego’s acquisition of Yonder Alonso in the Mat Latos trade yesterday. It seems curious that the Friars would be interested in Garza considering they just dealt away a younger, more controllable pitcher who is at least as good.  If the package they give up for Garza is less than the package they received for Latos, I suppose it equates to a positive-sum move.

Contrary to rumours from the last few days, Franz Lidz is reporting that the posting fee offered to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for Yu Darvish exceeded the previous record of $51.1-million that the Boston Red Sox paid to Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, according Japanese league officials [Sports Illustrated].  The winning team will be revealed Tuesday.

In other news from the NPBL, the Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly won the right to negotiate with posted Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki. The posting fee was reportedly $2.5-million. The Brewers and Aoki now have 30 days to negotiate a deal [MLB.com].

The Red Sox have apparently called the Royals regarding the availability of closer Joakim Soria [WEEI.com]. Boston acquired Astros’ closer Mark Melancon last week in a deal that sent shortstop Jed Lowrie and righthander Kyle Weiland the other way, but apparently they are not done fortifying the back-end of their bullpen.

According to Rosenthal, the St. Louis Cardinals are still maintaining interest in free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran [FOX Sports] although he is said to be weighing a number of two- and three-year options. The Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays are also said to be interested although Rosenthal thinks Toronto would be a poor fit due to the artificial turf at Rogers Centre and Beltran’s wonky knees. If they did acquire him, he would most likely be a part-time DH.

The Indians are reportedly interested in acquiring veteran free agent outfielder Mike Cameron [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]. Along with the acquisition of Aaron Cunningham, the Indians are clearly covering their bases for the inevitable injury to Grady Sizemore.

The left-handed version of Octavio Dotel, George Sherrill, has reportedly signed with his original team, the Seattle Mariners [MLB.com].

*- this term is growing on me