Fact-checking Scott Boras

In a recent discussion with Tom Haudricourt, Scott Boras made comparisons between Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira, and implied that the former would be seeking a contract similar to Teixeira's 8-year/$180 million behemoth deal.  This immediately led TH and many Brewers fan to conclude that the Brewers have zero chance of keeping Fielder when he becomes a free agent in 2012.  But a quick glance at the actual 2012 market for 1B shows that Scott Boras is dreaming (or more likely, just trying to get as much as he can out of Fielder) when he says Fielder would get a deal like Teixeira's.

There are 30 teams in the MLB, 16 of which could only use Prince as a 1B and 14 of which could conceivably use him as a 1B or DH.  I think we can eliminate the possibility that any team, even the Yankees, would give someone anywhere near $20 million/year just to DH.  So let's consider the 1B market.  We can further eliminate teams with established stars or prospects signed well beyond 2012 (ordered by 2010 team payroll):

New York Yankees - Mark Teixeira (free agent in 2017)
Philadelphia Phillies - Ryan Howard (free agent in 2017-2018)
New York Mets - Ike Davis (free agent in 2017)
Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera (free agent in 2016)
Los Angeles Angels - Kendry Morales (free agent in 2014)
Seattle Mariners - Justin Smoak (free agent in 2017)
Minnesota Twins - Justin Morneau (free agent in 2014)
Cincinnati Reds - Joey Votto (free agent in 2014)

We can also probably add St. Louis to that list, as they aren't likely to not extend Albert Pujols.  It also seems unlikely that any team with an elite 1B prospect on the verge of the majors (or already playing there) would give Prince a mammoth contract:

Atlanta Braves - Freddie Freeman
Toronto Blue Jays - Brett Wallace
Cleveland Indians - Matt LaPorta
Arizona Diamondbacks - Brandon Allen
Florida Marlins - Gaby Sanchez/Logan Morrison
Texas Rangers - Chris Davis
Oakland Athletics - Chris Carter

Even if they don't trust their prospects, most of those teams have payrolls significantly lower than the Brewers' regardless.  That leaves 14 teams.  If Prince is asking for Teixeira money, we can probably get rid of any team with a payroll below $75 million this year: Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers can probably also be eliminated.  The Cubs have too much money tied up in a handful of players already, and won't have nearly enough free money in 2012 to bid on Fielder.  The Dodgers already have a decent player signed for a couple more years in James Loney, and the ownership/divorce mess in Los Angeles makes them unlikely contenders for a huge free agent within the next couple years.

Assuming the Padres can't extend Adrian Gonzalez, he will be a free agent at the same time as Fielder, and probably the more desirable of the two for many teams.  The Red Sox in particular have been linked to Gonzalez, so if he hasn't already been traded to and extended in Boston by 2012, the Sox will probably make a push for him and not Prince.

That leaves six teams: the Chicago White Sox, the San Francisco Giants, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Astros and Orioles have been so awful this season that it seems unlikely their payroll doesn't drop considerably in the next couple years, probably taking them out of contention for a Prince Fielder contract.

Of the remaining four teams, only the White Sox and Giants have a noteworthy payroll edge over the Brewers, and even then it's not as if they have Yankees or Red Sox money.  All are operating around an $80-100 million payroll.  Even if all four of these teams (White Sox, Giants, Rockies, Brewers) go all in for Fielder, none of them seem either 1) able to take on a Teixeira-sized contract, or 2) able to blow the Brewers out of the water or really even outbid them.

Lots of things can change between now and 2012, but it seems pretty clear to me that Boras is 100% posturing when he says that Fielder will be looking for Teixeira money.  Boras knows the potential market better than I do after spending a few minutes glancing at Cots.  I still think it's probable that Fielder gets traded before 2012 and that he might not be in a Brewers uniform beyond then.  But the Brewers aren't going to get Sabathia-ed if Mark A. and Melvin decide to try and resign Prince.  Milwaukee has as good of odds as any team if they end up wanting to keep Prince in a Brewers uniform.  It's not going to take Teixeira money, so long as nobody lets Scott Boras pull the wool over their eyes and fleece them.

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