Art Thiel and Steve Rudman of Sportspress Northwest discuss the Prince Fielder situation in the wake of the Texas Rangers signing Japanese stud pitcher Yu Darvish for more than $100 million. Where does this leave the Mariners? And are the Rangers still in play?
A lot of people I’ve talked to since Darvish signed seem to believe this means the Mariners’ chances of landing Fielder have increased. I don’t think so, even though I’d like to see it happen.
ART: I don’t think the Mariners ever wanted to engage in this sweepstakes, but were forced by the pressure of their previous failures to go through some careful motions. It’s possible that Fielder could be a once-in-a-generation veteran free agent who has overplayed the market and falls back within reach of the Mariners. But it’s also possible Newt Gingrich will be mistaken for Tom Hanks.
The acquisition of Jesus Montero is not a game-changer; it merely will take a little edge off the considerable fan contempt felt this off-season.
STEVE: Landing Fielder would create the kind of magnum buzz that hasn’t happened since the Mariners signed Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson in December of 2004.
Face it: The Mariners need some buzz. But I think Fielder will sign with Washington or Texas, and I think Texas is the favorite because it has a recent history of creative solutions.
ART: Rangers President Nolan Ryan was on Randy Galloway’s radio show in the Metroplex Thursday, after the Rangers just spent magnum coin on salary and a posting fee for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.
Ryan was a little coy, but I think something’s up. Here’s what he said: “When you think youre out of something, you get up the next day and find out opportunities exist.”
He cited the Cliff Lee trade, saying the Rangers went to sleep the night before thinking the New York Yankees had a trade with Seattle for Lee basically done: “We got up the next morning and found out that didnt develop quite as it had been reported, and we got back on the phone and were able to get it done.”
As with Lee, Ryan has a lust for winning and drama. He wants to make it happen, and after all, this is Texas, where narcissism and pro sports ownership (Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones) go together like guns and pickups.
STEVE: Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, has always talked in generalities about an eight-to-10-year contract at $180-$200 million for Fielder. But the Rangers could offer Fielder what Fielder expects — about $18 million annually — over three years with an opt out.
That would give Fielder an opportunity become a free agent again at 30. Or, Boras could backload a deal and pay for it out of increased media revenues Texas will start getting in four years. Seattle could offer something similar, but Texas can offer a team that has appeared in two straight World Series.
ART: Use of the opt-out is an old Boras trick to get what he wants. Even if Fielder ends up with fewer dollars than a Seattle offer, the park is hitter friendly and Dallas is a two-hour-and-change flight to his Florida home. What is the the Mariners’ counter-punch to the two Series and the addition of Darvish? The 2001 season and newly signed Oliver Perez, who didn’t play in the majors last year.
STEVE: My, we’re getting chippy. Don’t forget the Mariners can now add an occasional ice storm to the package. Now let me digress a bit: A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out on Sportspress Northwest the reasons I felt Fielder would not want to play in Seattle.
Many readers heaped heavy trash in my direction for even bringing up the subject — as if nobody ever thought about it before. Let me clarify: I didn’t say I didn’t want Fielder to play here, only that I would have serious reservations if I stood in his shoes. From my perspective, I’d love to see Fielder sign with the Mariners. Big-time sluggers are fun, even if they flop.
ART: The people who took you for a buzzkill are so wrapped around the Fielder axle that they don’t want to hear it isn’t going to happen. They want to believe that a lefty slugger’s career numbers at Safeco, while marginally better that right-handers, is a fact that makes a difference. No. It isn’t. From Griffey to Martinez to Cameron to Buhner to Sexson to Beltre, sluggers regardless of their batter’s-box preference will testify that Safeco is no place a slugger wants to play nine division road games, much less 81 home games.
STEVE: Too bad. The garlic fries are great. So, are you saying that we will enter the season with an uptick in interest because of Montero, a fond memory of 2001, and a hope that Oliver Perez will become the Comeback Player of the Year?
ART: I’m saying that Montero has a good chance to be a nice DH, almost no chance in 2012 to fix the hole at catcher, Pineda will win 17 games for the Yanks, a lot of 3-2 defeats, and the Angels and Rangers will have locked themselves into a two-team AL West division race by Earth Day April 22.