As we approach the All-Star break, there's been a lot of discussion as to what's going to happen to players between now and when they become free agents. The main player mentioned is Prince Fielder.
Fielder has this, his final year of a 2-year $18MM contract, and his final free agent year in 2011 where the Brewers control him. However, with his agent being Scott Boras, the possibility of Milwaukee being able to re-sign him after 2011 seems rather remote. While some still hold out hope that Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee brass toss out a 5-year deal in the neighborhood of $120MM, the benefits of such a proposal are far out-weighed by the negatives.
With that said, let's take a look at the potential destinations for Fielder based on when the deal gets done and what those teams have in place. The potential markets, for my purposes, are teams that have traditionally over-spent for talent as well as have high enough payrolls or enough room to absorb the probably Fielder contract.
Lots more after the jump!
Here's the list in no particular order (other than what came to mind first):
New York Yankees (2010 Payroll: $213,359,389)
Pre-Trade Deadline: The Yankees are probably the most notorious team in MLB to pay for the top talent, many would say over-pay. Do the Yankees "need" Fielder? It could be argued that they indeed do need someone like Fielder. Right now, the DH duties in NY are being divided by Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher as Nick Johnson is sidelined until August following surgery on his wrist for an enflamed tendon. Fielder would immediately step into Johnson's spot as the back-up first-baseman behind Mark Teixeira (signed through 2016) and also the everyday DH.
After this season (2011 Payroll Commitments: $144,612,000): I think the potential for Fielder to get traded to New York in the off-season is gone. With Teixeira signed through '16 and Johnson being a cheaper option ($11MM option for 2011) if they choose to keep him, I don't see a spot for him. Fielder will probably command somewhere in the neighborhood of $16MM in free-agency. I don't see even the Yankees tying up $39MM at first base/DH.
In addition, Carlos Pena (T-Bay), Adam Dunn (Wash), Paul Konerko (CWS), A-Jols (StL) and Lance Berkman (Hou) are all potential free agents at the end of the season. One would assume that Pujols will be re-signed by the Cardinals but there is a good possibility that the rest will be available on the free agent market following the 2010 season. Pujols and Berkman do both have options for 2011, but it's more likely that Pujols will be signed and Berkman may either be dealt or have his optioned ($11MM club, $2MM buy-out) declined.
Boston Red Sox (2010 Payroll: $168,109,830)
Pre-Trade Deadline: The Sawx's situation changed a bit today (Sunday, June 27) as their starting catcher Victor Martinez went down with a broken thumb in their series with San Francisco. His return is probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 weeks (based on history) but his effectiveness swinging the bat and being able to catch (broken thumb on glove hand) could last much longer. Their listed DH at this point is David Ortiz (FA after this season). If you've watched any sports TV over the past couple of years, you know that his production has been less than stellar. Fielder could not only step in as DH, but he could also spell Youkilis at first from time to time in place of V-Mart.
After this season (2011 Payroll Commitments: $100,506,000): Boston has a great deal of flexibility to either go to arbitration with Fielder or sign him in the off-season to a mega-deal. Ortiz has an $11MM team option for 2011 which, if a better option is available, would most likely be declined. It would be an increase in payroll, however with so much coming off the books in 2011, the Red Sox would be able to absorb it pretty well.
New York Mets (2010 Payroll: $126,498,096)
Pre-Trade Deadline: One word - Ike Davis. The Mets' stud prospect Ike Davis has made it to the majors and is clearly the long-term option for the Mets at first base. I don't see the Mets parting with their prized prospect just to pick-up more bulk (no pun intended) to their payroll. Keep in mind, the Mets only have two contracts over $20MM (Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran). And other than Jason Bay's contract in 2011, no other contract comes close. They've gone young and cheapish. Most of their contracts are in the $10-12 range for the next couple of years and with them in contention this year, their FO is probably considering their negotiating a success (or at least they should, to this point).
After this season (2011 Payroll Commitments: $108,763,000): With the majority of the money coming off the payroll being on the pitching staff, I don't see Fielder being someone they want or need to add to their roster.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2011 Payroll: $121,113,867)
Pre-Trade Deadline: With Kendry Morales out for the season after breaking his leg on home plate, the Angeles need a first baseman. Mike Napoli is filling in well to this point and doesn't appear to be in the long-term plans of the Angels' front office at catcher (Jeff Mathis), so Fielder's worth to the Angels isn't "that" great. However, having someone to spell Napoli at first (or when he goes to catch) and also spell Matsui at DH could prove to be very valuable.
After this season (2011 Payroll Commitments: $80,917,000): Fans of a move to LA for Fielder might look at the $80MM payroll commitments for 2011 and say, "well, they can absorb Fielder and another small town!" Eh, not so fast. For 2011, the Angels have 9 players that are eligible for arbitration (Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Napoli, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis, Kendry Morales, etc). There aren't a whole lot of names on that list that are likely to get non-tendered or have their salaries only go up by only a little bit. The benefit to Fielder is that Matsui is a free agent following the 2010 season. The problem, is Matsui only signed for $6MM for 2010 and adding approximately $10MM to the payroll to add Fielder (assuming arbitration number is in the neighborhood of $16MM) is fairly unlikely.
Chicago White Sox (2010 Payroll: $103,080,000)
Pre-Trade Deadline: Frankly, I see very little chance to move Fielder to the Southside during the season. There just doesn't seem to be a spot. Paul Konerko is fairly well cemented as the DH and Mark Kotsay plays an okay version of first base. Could they use an upgrade of power at first? Absolutely. However the White Sox front office hasn't been particularly amenable to adding payroll (Fielder would become the 4th highest paid player on the team this year and probably over take Jake Peavey as highest paid in 2011). These aren't the Yankees or Cubs who just throw money around hap-hazardly. Kenny Williams has been fairly judicious in his spending.
After this season (2011 Payroll Commitments: $66,675,000): Unlike Los Angeles, the White Sox have room to add payroll and have the likes of Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Kotsay as potential free agents following this season. The starting holes that the Sox have to fill are DH/1B, C and a couple pitching spots. If they're looking for a front line DH/1B, there are few better options than Fielder. Even at a potential $16MM, given the potential free agents available (see above), Fielder is probably the best option for them, if he's still available.
I have purposely left off teams like the Cubs because I don't see Doug Melvin being that masochistic as to want to trade with the Cubs and see Fielder on the opposite side 16 times a year. That's not to say that it won't happen (see: Lee, Carlos) however I think Fielder is a greater threat to the Brewers in the same division than Carlos Lee is/was.
Obviously, there's also the potential that the Brewers don't deal him this year (if they're in a perceived pennant chase) and they go to arbitration with him. If that's the case, much of my work here is moot. I'm sure there are other teams out there that could use Fielder and could make a deal that works for both teams, but honestly, I'm not good at evaluating trades.
I will say this though. I don't think the Brewers deal Fielder this season unless they are completely out of the pennant race by the trade deadline. To me, it just doesn't make sense to do so.