Pujols and Fielder: Where They Will Land in 2012
MLB reports: There are two seasons in baseball: the season in itself with games and statistics to analyze and the offseason, with players moves and signings to report and speculate. I rarely like to combine the two seasons, as fans spend several winter months running through rumors in the winter and are ready for actual baseball come March. I am often told by fans that the MLB season is meant for playing baseball, not running through free agency analysis. Yet, I cannot even begin to count the amount of daily requests I receive asking me on where Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will sign in 2012. We may not want to discuss it in May, but the truth is that two of the biggest (literally) sluggers that the game has ever seen will be entering free agency at the same time this year. In the back of our minds, we are all curious where each will play. Today, I will help shed some light on the future of Pujols and Fielder.
As I look into the magic crystal ball, the top contending teams for the services of Pujols and Fielder are as follows:
St. Louis Cardinals
I have said from day one that Pujols is not going anywhere and I am sticking to my guns. Pujols leaving St. Louis is like the Babe leaving Boston, franchise crippling (for many…many years at least). The Cardinals, MLB, the fans of St. Louis and even the President of the United States will likely have a say in directing Pujols to re-sign with his current employers. Pujols will get a huge payday, don’t get me wrong, but he does not seem to be the type to take the largest contract offer on the table. Plus with Tony LaRussa at the helm, there will many forces at play to keep Sir Albert (aka “The Great Pujols”) in St. Louis. In the event that the Cardinals lose out on their franchise player, logic dictates that they will make a run at Fielder. I cannot see a fit here, as location and money does not seem to work for Prince. I see the bright lights of the big city ahead for Fielder and with a stable of teams gunning for him, he will be a difficult player to sign.
New York Yankees
Any talk of free agency signings begin and end with the Yankees. They are always a threat to make a run for the top hired guns and often get their way. The Mark Teixeira signing came out of left field and after losing out on Cliff Lee last year, the Yankees are hungry to add more big names to their roster. The top target of the Yankees would be Pujols, but I cannot see him fitting in New York. With a gold glover entrenched at first, Pujols is not and will not sign to be a DH for the balance of his career. The money might be right, but the position and environment does not suit Sir Albert. On the other hand, Prince is a logical candidate for New York. To become the biggest name in baseball, Prince would love to perform on its biggest stage and there is none bigger than New York. Like his dad before him, Prince would look great in pinstripes. Given the strained relationship between father and son, I could see Prince having an added incentive to perform better than his dad did with the Yankees. I am not sure how Prince will take to being a DH but with age, weight and injuries all becoming a risk, I could see Prince getting off the field as a huge bonus for his career. Posada is on the last year of his contract (and leg of his career) and a DH spot is about to open up in New York. But if Prince is determined to keep his glove, then all bets are off.
Kansas City Royals
This team probably comes as a shock to you. Before you start with the angry messages, think about some factors. I had considered this team in the past, but a limited budget and winning prospects left me with many doubts. But after reading some articles on the subject, I began to be swayed. Pujols went to school in the area. Pujols met his wife in Kansas City. Everyone supposedly wants to come home…and perhaps Pujols is the same. The move to the Royals would not be far from his current location. The Royals are a team on the rise with the best farm system in baseball. The signing of Pujols could instantly bring the team to respectability. Even though top prospect Eric Hosmer plays first and Billy Butler is the DH, positions can be realigned for Pujols. The signing of Pujols could be the missing link that the Royals need and I can see this signing as a real possibility. I will give the Royals a 10% chance at best at signing Pujols, but that is 10% better than most teams. As far as Fielder goes, don’t even think about it, Pujols and the Royals are a one-time match only.
San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs have several factors going for them. Money in the bank. Great attendance numbers and incredible pitching. Somehow the Giants won it all in 2010 with weak hitting but if they hope to get back to the fall classic, they will need better hitting. They don’t come better or bigger than Pujols or Fielder. Both players are solid fits for the Giants. Signing with the Giants allows either player to stay in the NL. The ballpark should not be a factor as Pujols and Fielder could launch home runs in San Diego if required. The requirement for offense means the Giants will push heavily to sign one of these guys. Since I see Pujols back in St. Louis, I will not give him much of a chance of signing here. But that being said, it is one of the only credible possibilities. Prince is more likely than Pujols to jump to San Francisco and enjoy the weather and admiration of becoming the next Barry Bonds, sans the steroids. Again unlikely, but one of the only true landing spots for either slugger.
Toronto Blue Jays
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Blue Jays have money in the bank and a team on the rise. They shed the huge Vernon Wells contract and despite paying Jose Bautista a king’s ransom, still have room in the budget for the right superstar. Possibly. Let’s not even discuss Pujols here. It is not going to happen as I cannot see a fit for him in terms of market and team. But Prince Fielder is another story. Cecil made his professional debut with the Jays and Prince knows the city well. I remember Prince as a youngster coming to Toronto and hitting home runs at BP when Cecil was with the Tigers. The Jays have a first baseman in Adam Lind that can rotate first and DH with Prince. Together with Jose Bautista, the Jays would have two of the biggest boppers in the game in their lineup. The Rogers Centre, being the launching pad that it is, could see over fifty home runs for Fielder. All the chips could be in place for a Toronto signing in Prince’s future. The issues that I see are that Toronto is not a large enough market, may not hand out the biggest contract, Canadian taxes/visa issues in the minds of players and strength of team on the field. The Jays would be an underdog to sign Fielder, but one of few teams that has the resources and the incentives to lure him away from Milwaukee.
One team that is missing from the discussion is the Milwaukee Brewers, Fielder’s current team. They have been omitted for good reason. The team does not have the finances to sign Prince and does not appear to have the resources to sign either slugger to a long-term contract. With Braun, Weeks, Greinke all locked up, the Brewers are tapped out from the mega-dollars that both sluggers seek. Other teams like the Cubs, Angels and Orioles have the money but do not have the market and/or lineups that Pujols and Fielder will be seeking. The Mets and Dodgers are having ownership issues that will likely limit or eliminate their ability during the next free agency period. So with that being said, the truth is that anything can happen. As we saw last year with Cliff Lee, who went to the Phillies and Mark Teixeira signing with the Yankees before, a mystery team can always emerge. But based on my evaluation and analysis, if you needed a final prediction from me: Pujols to Cardinals, Fielder to Yankees. Final answer.
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