While the Dustin Parkeses and Drew Fairservices of the world are off enjoying their weekend, I’ll be taking the reins and providing you with some content to hold you over until the big boys get back to their desks on Monday morning.  Now you can get your Getting Blanked fix seven days a week.  You’re welcome.

Here we are, one week into 2012, and free agent first baseman Prince Fielder is still on the market.  With the Yankees and Red Sox allegedly not interested in the slugger, the market for him is a curious one.  We’ve been hearing all winter that the Cubs were the frontrunners, but that seems to go against the Epstein/Hoyer brain trust who insist the Cubs are embarking on a deep rebuild, a notion strengthened by their dumping of Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins this week.  Still, the Cubs have the money and the market to attract a player of Fielder’s ilk, so the media kept insisting they were a player.

Then yesterday, the Cubs acquired 22-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the Padres, all but ending whatever shallow rumours connected the North Siders to Prince.

So what now?

The Blue Jays have been linked to Fielder, but their brain trust has said they won’t give him more than five years.  The Nationals have emerged as the apparent front-runners, but GM Mike Rizzo insists that his team (for some strange reason) is sticking with Adam LaRoche as their everyday first baseman.  The Mariners have also been connected, but that seems like strange fit considering their lot in life in the newly super-power laden AL West.  Most suggest they’d be better off starting a rebuild and waiting for the Angels and Rangers to fade.

For what it’s worth (and that’s probably not much considering they don’t speak), Prince’s father Cecil thinks his son will sign in Washington, according to a speech he made at the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame Induction dinner last night.

So who else is there?  Obviously just because Mike Rizzo says he’s not interested doesn’t mean he isn’t, and the Mariners could make an ill-advised move and pony up the dough.  Hell, Fielder may even decide that five years allows him the opportunity to get one more big free agent deal before the end of his career, pushing him to ply his wares in Toronto, but what if those teams all decide they really don’t want the risk.  Who’s left?

How about some completely baseless speculation to start you off on your weekend?

The Rangers have been an intriguing option since day one.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a team in a better position in the AL right now.  Adding Fielder to a lineup that already includes Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, and Elvis Andrus is a scary thought and their major weakness is at first base, which currently belongs to second-division starter Mitch Moreland.  They appear to have the money, but everyone in the Rangers front office has said they are not interested in Fielder.  I have a feeling, however, that the Rangers are playing it coy here and have far more interest in Fielder than they’re letting on.

What of the Marlins?  They nearly nabbed Pujols, but came up just short.  One would think they’d be interested in Fielder despite public comments to the contrary.  Adding Fielder might push them into the rarefied air that currently belongs exclusively to the Phillies in the NL East.  Also, who doesn’t want to see the near-300-pound Fielder in those orange jerseys?

It’s extremely doubtful, but what if the Brewers are playing it coy?  That might rank among the biggest upsets in sports history if Fielder decided to remain in Milwaukee.

Then there are the Yankees.  They’ve been suspiciously quiet this offseason haven’t they?  I know their biggest need is in the rotation, but this is a team that has serious age questions in Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and even Mark Teixeira.  If the Yankees signed Fielder, they could potentially trade Teixeira for some help in the rotation, or simply play him at DH and trade prospect phenom Jesus Montero.  Like the Brewers, I’m grasping at straws here, but the thought is interesting, no?

That’s enough aimless pontificating for today.  It’s a slow news week, alright?  Get off my back.

Here’s some links from the “hot” stove:

More than 19 months after breaking his leg while jumping on home plate celebrating a walk-off grand slam, Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales has been cleared to “ramp up” some baseball activities [LA Times].  If healthy, it’s unclear where Morales will fit into the Angels’ plans. Along with the signing of Albert Pujols to play first base, LAA of A has Mark Trumbo and Bobby Abreu to DH.  Morales was tendered a contract earlier in the offseason.

Sticking with the Halos, they have signed utility infielder and moustachioed wonder Jorge Cantu to a minor league deal [Twitter/LA Times].

Mr. Heyman reports that the Texas Rangers have “checked in on” former Phillies closer Ryan Madson [Twitter/CBS Sports].  I know we tend to criticize people who put too much weight into the value of relievers, but imagine for a second a Rangers team with Mike Adams, Joe Nathan, Madson, Koji Uehara, and possibly Tanner Scheppers down the road.  Rocketbikes, indeed.

Tigers righthander Rick Porcello has opted out of the final year of contract and is now arbitration eligible [MLive.com].  Porcello signed a record (at the time) Major League contract after being drafted with the 27th overall pick in 2007 that included a $1.34-million option for the 2012 season.  However, given his Super-Two eligibility, Porcello stands to make far more than that through arbitration; around $4.2-million, according to the invaluable MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projector.  Despite a career 4.54 ERA and forgetting how to strike people out, Porcello has still been worth 6.7 fWAR over his three big-league seasons.

Sad news out of St. Louis as pitching coach Dave Duncan (probably the best pitching coach in the game) is taking a leave of absence from the Cardinals for the 2012 season to be with his wife, Jeanine, who underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour last summer [FOX Sports].  Obviously, I don’t know the specifics of Jeanine Duncan’s illness, but having gone through a loved one’s battle with a brain tumour, this certainly can’t be an easy time for Duncan. Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery for Jeanine and a quick return to the game for Mr. Duncan.  Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist has been named the Cards’ pitching coach in his stead [St. Louis Today].

The New York Mets have agreed to sign shortstop Ronny Cedeno to a $1.1-million contract for the 2012 season [ESPN New York].  Cedeno will compete with Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner for the starting shortstop job in Queens and although we like to make fun of the Mets around these parts, Cedeno has been worth 2.5 fWAR over the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, which would suggest that the Mets are getting quite the deal here.  Obviously, having Ronny Cedeno as your potential starting shortstop doesn’t scream World Championship, but there are much worse deals out there.  Consider Cedeno’s replacement in Pittsburgh, Clint Barmes, who has been worth only about one marginal win more than Cedeno over the past two years, but received a two-year, $10.5-million deal from the Bucs.

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