Is Prince Fielder Destined to Be a Washington National?

December 8, 2010

Based on the deal for Jayson Werth and what Adrian Gonzalez is expected to earn via an extension, the Milwaukee Brewers are well aware they will not be able to re-sign Prince Fielder to a long-term contract.

Tons of teams have looked into the big first baseman, including the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. With the Cubs not in yet, it appears they will go with a shorter-term fix like Carlos Pena. However, look for the Cubs to be players if Fielder reaches free agency.

With Scott Boras as his agent, Prince is likely to become a free agent, but there is one team which might be able to keep Fielder off the market.

Why not the Washington Nationals for Fielder? Boras is Fielder’s agent, and he just moved his outfielder Jayson Werth to Washington. The Nats are a natural fit for Fielder as they need a first baseman for 2011, but might be able to wait another season to sign the free agent to be.

However, if the Brewers are not in contention for the playoffs come July, could the Nats trade for Fielder, then sign him to a long-term extension thus keeping other potential suitors away.

The Nats have some pitching they can give up, with quite a few guys at the major league level and Triple A.

At the Winter Meetings, I asked Boras if he will push for a Fielder trade to the Nats. His reply? “I would love to be able to dictate things, but I can not force deals to happen.”

And he gave me a questioning look.

Boras appears to have a great relationship with Nats GM Mike Rizzo and the Lerners, having already worked on deals for the last two top draft picks, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper plus the recent Werth contract.

If Fielder is not traded to the Nationals this off season, look for him to be in a Nationals uniform by 2012, if not sooner.

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MLB Winter Meetings: New York Yankees in a Fight To Sign Free Agent Cliff Lee

December 7, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With the Jayson Werth deal signed, sealed and delivered, and the Adrian Gonzalez trade done with the extension to be announced later, the entire baseball world is wondering where Cliff Lee will sign.

On Monday, Lee’s agent, Derek Braunecker, met with the various teams interested in his free-agent left-hander. Braunecker met with New York Yankees and Texas Rangers officials. There was even talk the Boston Red Sox met briefly with Lee’s agent, probably just to keep tabs on what the Yankees are up to.

Anyway, the domino theory is very much in play. Unless guys are being given what are now called “Jayson Werth”-type deals (that means out-of-their-mind contracts in terms of years and money), lots of people are going to decide after Lee signs.

Lee has a guaranteed deal with the Texas Rangers, on the financial side only. The years have not been determined. There are reports that Lee wants seven years and the Rangers have offered four, then five years guaranteed.

That is where it stands now. Lee has a five-year offer from the Rangers (presumably $23-25 million per season) to continue pitching in the Lone Star State.

Word is that if the Rangers move up to a sixth year guaranteed, and then Lee would be 80-90 percent sure he would go to Texas.

I believe that Cliff Lee WANTS to go back and pitch for the Texas Rangers, and that he is trying to find a way to do that. Lee likes the fact he is THE MAN in Texas and relishes the role of mentoring young pitchers C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland.

What can bring Lee to New York is if the Yankees top the Rangers and go for a seventh year guaranteed. If that’s the case, Lee may essentially have no other option but to take the money and come to New York.

I believe the Yankees don’t want to go for that seventh year, but they will do it kicking and screaming.

The Yankees are secondary for Lee, and he would only come for the money, as he feels he can win a title with either club. The Lee camp could be putting out that “will go to Texas for a sixth year” talk just to get the Yankees to also go a guaranteed sixth year.

Then if two teams are guaranteeing six years, it is only a matter of time before one goes that seventh year. The key in his camp is to get both teams already committing to six.

Braunecker putting out the word that Lee is a lock for Texas at six years is a good play on his part. The agent is doing everything he can to get the most money from a World Series-contending team.

However, an unexpected suitor for Lee has emerged—the Washington Nationals.

105614851_crop_340x234 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Talks were rampant early this morning that the Nats were going to offer Lee a seven-year deal, the amount of years Lee desires, but for less money per season.

No one here at the meetings thinks that the Nationals will land Lee, but the Lerner ownership group, likely the richest in the majors, is tired of all the losing.

Majority owner Ted Lerner is 85 years old and “desperately” would like to see a winner in Washington. This scenario is similar to how Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is trying to buy a World Series winner in the Motor City by signing free agents Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit.

But there is absolutely no way Cliff Lee ends up in Washington. The Nationals will throw a whole lot of money at Lee, but like Mark Teixeira did two years ago, Lee will reject the most money and sign with one of the contending teams.

If it comes down to the Yankees, Rangers or Natioanls, my guess is Texas.

The Rangers will eventually go for that sixth year to get the guy they want, just like the Red Sox went a seventh year with Adrian Gonzalez. Whether the Yankees offer Lee his desired seventh year will decide whether or not he goes to New York. But Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a solid history of convincing free agents to come play in New York, most notably CC Sabathia. 

But it is tough to see that happening right now for Cliff Lee, especially if the contract offered by Texas is the same.


MLB Winter Meetings: Jayson Werth to Washington Nationals, Adrian Gonzalez Deal Dead?

December 5, 2010

On the ground at the winter meetings in unseasonably cold Orlando, Fla., there has been quite a bit of action already.

Actually, in much colder Boston, the Adrian Gonzalez trade is currently off, as the slugging first baseman and the Boston Red Sox could not agree on an extension. They had a window until 2 p.m. today, and while the Red Sox were willing to given Gonzalez a six-year extension, the player wanted eight years and “Mark Teixeira money.”

Many people here believe that if Gonzalez tests the free-agent waters after this season, there would be up to six potential suitors for the type of money (eight years/$180 million) Teixeira signed for two winters ago. Those teams include the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Cubs and, of course, the Red Sox.

The Cubs were the other teams heavily involved in trying to trade for Gonzalez last week. Could talks with the Cubbies begin anew?

While the deadline for an extension has passed and the trade is now dead, it does not mean it is completely done. The teams could talk trade again (same players involved), and the Red Sox could up their offer.

I believe the Red Sox need Gonzalez so bad that they at least go to a seventh year (he would only be 35 in that last season), and this trade eventually gets done.

It gets done because of the major news today from the meetings that former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, he of the 120 career home runs at the age of 31, signed a big-money contract with the Washington Nationals.

That deal is for seven years and $126 million. Are you kidding? This deal will turn out just as bad as the deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets. Maybe it’s the name.

Well, Scott Boras did his work here and earned every penny of what he is getting paid by Werth.

But the right-hand hitting Werth was also on the Red Sox radar, to complement the trade for the left-hand hitting Gonzalez.

Now Werth is out, and the Gonzalez deal is done, for the time being. Even if the Red Sox do eventually get Gonzalez, they need another bat.

And that means going after Carl Crawford. The Sox can put a dent in the Yankees and Angels’ pursuit for CC No. 2 and improve their own lineup, too.

Let’s say the Red Sox then do sign Crawford. That means the Angels are needing to improve their team. They would like to get lineup help and want Crawford to be their No. 3 hitter.

But if Crawford signs elsewhere, the Angels can improve their team by getting better starting pitching.

And that means going heavy for Cliff Lee. What better way to crush the rival Texas Rangers, hurt the Yankees and improve your own team?

I have always thought the Angels were going to be a dark horse for Lee. However, many people here believe that Lee does not want to go back to the west coast. Valid point.

Also, the Angles aren’t hurting for starting pitching, with five starters already in the fold, including Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero, Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir. But Kazmir is mostly ineffective and could be moved, as he only has one year left before free agency. They could also move the more desirable Santana to make room.

However, money does talk (ask Werth), and the Angels will certainly be able to go $150 million for six years for Lee. That might get it done. Angels owner Arte Moreno has never been shy about spending his hard-earned cash.

Plus, I have always believed the Angels don’t really need Crawford with speedy youngsters Peter Bourjos (ready now) and Mike Trout probably ready in 2013 or sooner. Trout could be the best overall prospect in the major leagues.

Going after and signing Lee would make the Angels the leading contender in the AL West and would severely alter the Yankees pitching plans for their rotation.

If Lee signs elsewhere, what do the Bombers do then? I have several thoughts on what they could do,  but they will be held for another piece.

These possible moves are the domino effects of the Gonzalez trade being called off (for now) and Werth strictly showing us money was the only factor in signing with the Nationals.

So much has gone on here at the winter meetings, and they haven’t even officially begun.