Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:48 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:54 pm
LAKELAND -- If it's possible, Prince Fielder seems even more boisterous and more animated than ever before now that his new $214-million, nine-year contract is behind him and the Tigers are his future. You've never seen anyone so thrilled to be in Detroit.
"This is a blessing,'' Fielder said. "It's a dream come true, even though I didn't even dream about it.''
Fielder, who resided in Detroit while his father Cecil starred for the Tigers, added that "it really hasn't sunk in yet'' that he's a Tiger.
Fielder is already starting on his own legend. He hit a home run in batting practice that veteran Detroit News Tigers beat writer Tom Gage measured as 611 feet (including the roll). he hit a home run in the opener here at Joker Marchant, crashing one about 25-feet up off the light tower in right field, and after he said, "I'm just getting loose.''
Folks around the Tigers remember when Prince came to hit for them as a draft-eligible player a decade ago and more consistently hit the ball over the fence than most of their real players. But alas, the Tigers had the eighth pick that year, and Fielder went to the Brewers one pick ahead. (With Fielder gone, the Tigers picked first baseman Scott Moore, who has seven lifetime homers and is in Astros camp after signing a minor-league contract this winter).
Technically, Fielder is here not because of his dream but because of Tigers owner Mike Ilitch's dream. Ilitch, 83, has yet to win a World Series as Tigers owner, and he has shown he will do whatever it may take to rectify that. The loss of Victor Martinez after what is described as a freak training injury that wrecked his knee when his front foot gave out while shuffling is all it took to put Fielder on Ilitch's radar.
The loss of Martinez meant weakened lineup protection for incumbent superstar Miguel Cabrera. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said V-Mart's absence conjured up images of a steady stream of intentional walks for Cabrera. So to Dombrowski it was really like the loss of "one a half hitters.'' Ilitch could not stand to see his team weakened, so he made sure to make it better.
"He is in a situation where he wants to win,'' Dombrowski said about Ilitch. "He is also very cognizant he has a good club, so he's in a situation where he's aggressive.''
Aggressive? Some other teams may claim $214 million over nine years is foolhardy for the productive and jubilant yet stocky Fielder. However, Ilitch has been aggressive before, and it has ususally paid off. It did with Magglio Ordonez, and before that with Pudge Rodriguez.
For Fielder, before V-Mart hurt himself, there was no thought about retruning to Detroit. The leaders for him appeared to be the Dodgers, who offered $160-million plus over seven years and might have gone to an eighth year, and the Orioles, who have a hard time attracting GMs or players. The Nationals and Rangers were among many more interested teams but some of those other teams were reluctant to go eight years, much less nine.
Fielder said of Ilitch, "He wanted to get it done. He was the only guy to really show that.''
The Ordonez and Rodriguez signings came in the years before big stars dreamed of coming to Detroit. Fielder figures Detroit is perfect, and not just because he spent his formative years there (from age 5 to 11). He wants to win, and the Tigers have as good a chance as anyone these days. Also, it probably doesn't hurt that the American League team will give him a chance to DH in the final years of his nine-year deal.
"I remember the years (in Detroit). It was awesome,'' Fielder declared of the time he spent there (the Fielders lived in Grosse Pointe). "Hopefully, I can make some new memories.''
The negotiation, though it took well into January, is the first positive memory for Prince. There were definitely some anxious moments, but Fielder is better equipped than most to handle those. Speaking of his agent Scott Boras, Fielder said, "One thing Scott doesn't do is lie. He said at (age) 19 what would happen if I stayed focused. He was right.''
Perhaps, but no one could have predicted he'd back in Detroit.
Posted on: February 26, 2012 8:40 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 8:37 pm
JUPITER, Fla. -- When someone suggested to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria that the Marlins "certainly would be entertaining,'' Loria corrected that person. "More than entertaining,'' Loria said.
"Don't sell us short,'' he further advised.
That probably won't happen, not with two of the game's better salesmen in tow. The best, of course, has to be new manager Ozzie Guillen, who had the players in stitches in his pre-preseason speech, according to Mark Buehrle, who like Guillen came to the Marlins from the White Sox. Guillen saved his best for the speech, because he was maybe too tired to be his outlandish self by the end of the workout, when he finally met with the media.
The speech to the team, though, was said to have been doozy, covering everything up to and including ballplayer patriotism (on that score, he told his troops, "I expect to see everyone get up on that bleeeing step'' for the national anthem). One of the more substantive speech highlights, according to Marlins players, came when Guillen reminded them how much money Loria spent on this team, and also told them he didn't want to see them waste it. An old veteran pooh-poohed the impact of the speech, yet this much is true: the Marlins clubhouse seemed lmuch more alive than ever before.
Some of that has to do with a mix of talent so enticing that when they looked around, it could do nothing but excite them, no matter how much Loria, the other great salesman, spent. (For the record, it was $191 million between shortstop Jose Reyes, lefty starter Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell alone). Indeed, there is a lot to love about this team, including the manager and owner who taken together make it three rings in this circus.
The Marlins have maybe the player with the most power of any in the majors in Mike Stanton. They have the player who may be the fastest in the game in Emilio Bonificio. And, for good measure, they have the one who may have the most to prove in the perpetually temperamental Carlos Zambrano after the Cubs wanted him gone so badly they paid all but $3 million of his $18-million salary to be rid of him. (Though talented new third baseman Hanley Ramirez may not be far behind in that competition.)
Whatever happens there, Loria isn't going to be able to pull a John Henry and act like he wasn't behind the Zambrano deal since Loria said, "The trade was made with my enthusiastic support. I don't care what's happened before. The page is turned''
What happens next is really what's on the mind of the Marlins. The excitement truly was palpable in a clubhouse filled with interesting people. "This team has a lot of personalities,'' Loria allowed.
They also have the friendly lefthander Buehrle, a transplanted American Leaguer. They have the chatty veteran closer, Heath Bell. They have the superstar on the move, Ramirez. They have the safety-last veteran outfielder Aaron Rowand, another of Guillen's former White Sox. And they have the baseball's twitter champion, Logan Morrison, who last year upset his bosses with some dazzling tweets (though truth be told, they were much tamer than those of Giuillen's youngest son Oney, who used to rip his daad's boss Ken Williams all the time in tweets).
For now Guillen has no complaints with anything here, certainly not Loria, whose big winter disappointment was the failure to sign superstar first baseman Albert Pujols, which would have at least doubled their payout, depending on who you ask. Marlins people say they bid $201 million for Pujols, while someone in Pujols' camp suggested they actually offered $275 million. There were a couple brief dalliances with Prince Fielder, but there seemed to be a hierarchical split over whether to seriously pursue him, with Loria seemingly much more interested than team president David Samson, who declared during the middle of continuing reports that the Marlins were still involved that they had actually no interest in Fielder. A few people who dealt with the Marlins did say they sensed a bit of a split on a couple choices between Loria and Samson, Loria's former son-in-law. And in a couple of those cases, Samson seemed to have gotten his way (Fielder would have been yet another big personality in the Marlins' vastly improved clubhouse.)
Even though the Marlins didn't get the supertsr first baseman they badly wanted or the second-choice first baseman some of their top people wanted, they still spent more than anyone by the Angels, the signers of Pujols and C.J. Wilson, yet another top pitcher the Marlins tried for (they offered $99 million before Wilson went to his hometown Angels for $77.5 million). Speaking of the winter, Loria said, "We met out expectations.''
With all the money spent, and all the excitement that comes with the new players plus the say-anything Guillen, the hope is that the Marlins get back to the playoffs this year, even if Loria wouldnt go far as to out-and-out predict that. While he did say this is the strongest Marlins team he's had to start a season, including the eventual World Series champion 2003 edition, Loria declined to predict a World Series for this talented, eclectic mix.
Instead, the Marlins owner offered a bit of advice to the reporters. "You want predictions,'' Loria said, "call Samson.''
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:02 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 9:23 pm
The Rangers have hired a new "accountability coach'' for Josh Hamilton, who will try to make sure what happened Monday never happens again. Their heart is in the right place. And so is his.
Hamilton certainly did not soft sell his second drinking incident since becoming a Ranger today at his press conference, and that's a great sign. "I have a lot of soul searching to do,'' he admitted, among other things. Hamilton conceded to having "three or four'' drinks with dinner Monday at a Dallas-area bar before returning for more. He poured his heart out, too.
Hamilton, who's beloved by the Rangers for his almost superhuman level of transparency, admitted he can be tricky when he drinks. He said he fooled teammate Ian Kinsler Monday night, reassuring him he'd stay in after Kinsler dropped him at home, only to return to the scene of the drinking. But Hamilton showed his unvarnished self at his press conference, saying, "I feel terrible about this.''
It's hard not to root for this guy He certainly seemed sincere. He certainly seemed to be taking this transgression seriously. His recent past suggest he is. He had one previous "relapse'' since the Rangers acquired him, and he got through that to this point. His reaction today suggest he can get through this, too. But Hamilton understands how powerful his addiction is.
"I feel terrible about this,'' he said. "I am hurt by it tremendously.''
The Rangers love Hamilton, who became a superstar after a ban from baseball for multiple failed drug tests and a cocaine additcion, because of his otherworldy talent. But they also love that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He understands the seriousness of slips, even slips that may seem relatively minor to outsiders. He said his wife has been the strong one in their relationship and it's time for him to "take responsibility'' and to "step up.''
He also mentioned he understands now how his contract situation has to be on the "back burner'' now. That is assuredly true. The Rangers are a very loyal lot, and that loyalty seems to have paid off with manager Ron Washington, who they kept and supported after he failed a drug test in July, 2010, and recently gave a two-year contract extension, too, through 2014. But they are not crazy.
That organizational loyalty was at work when the Rangers held the line in contract discussions with Prince Fielder, deciding against going to eight years for Fielder, very likely in part because they had their own lefthanded middle-of-the-lineup superstar in Hamilton. Even before Fielder signed with the Tigers, Rangers co-owner Bob Simpson even said aloud that keeping Hamilton rather than signing Fielder was his "preference.'' It was clear what he meant. Hamilton is their guy.
The Rangers make more good decisions than almost anyone (for instance, they lowered their payroll $10 million in the first of two straight years they made the World Series, 2010). But one has to wonder whether their loyalty got the better of them in this case with their decision to pass on Prince (well, not go to eight years, anyway) and try to make a deal for Hamilton instead. Now those talks have to be on hold (as Hamilton admitted).
The Rangers made a great decision to acquire Hamilton in trade from the Reds for Edinson Volquez. Reds doctors worried that Hamilton would never be fully healthy, and they practically ordered a trade. It was a strict business decision on their part. And the Rangers made a business call to acquire Hamilton, calculating that his talent was worth the risk. But seeing his obvious charm, you have to wonder whether their decision to try to sign him instead of Fielder was based at least in part on his charms or their emotions. He is 31 with a long history of injury. He is to admired for coming this far. But you have to wonder whether all the abuse has taken a toll.
Hamilton is a great guy, and a great story. And he scored big with his terrific press conference. But let's face it, the Rangers took a real risk sticking with their guy.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 7:10 pm
Although they managed to stay under the radar all the while, the bankrupt big-market Los Angeles Dodgers pushed hard behind the scenes for weeks to try to sign Prince Fielder and thought for a while that they might have a legitimate shot at their own secret signing. The swashbuckling, secret-keeping Dodgers surely were a surprise entrant in the sweepstakes, making a major push to sign the star slugger with an initial offer that guaranteed him seven years and provided a sweet four-year opt-out. And for a couple weeks, the Dodgers looked like a real possibility for Prince.
The Dodgers surely gave a spirited effort to secure Fielder, even flying to meet with him at an undisclosed neutral location a few weeks ago, but somehow they managed to keep the entire undertaking under wraps, save for a few internet rumblings from fans speculating that they may have been a mystery team in the mix. It certainly is highly unusual for a team in backruptcy court to make a huge, nine-figure offer, but Dodgers people view Fielder as an extraordinary player who would have thrived in their large market.
But as it turned out, the Dodgers were merely the first mystery team. The second one, the Tigers, jumped in to win Fielder on a $214-million, nine-year deal several days after star hitter Victor Martinez suffered a knee injury that's expected to keep him out for the 2012 season. The one entity that was aware of the Dodgers' clandestine pursuit was the Tigers, who believed at some point that their strongest competition was coming from Los Angeles. The Nationals, Rangers and as many as four others also were showing strong interest in the 27-year-old slugger, though L.A. was definitely a prime player and one of the one or two main contenders to decisive Detroit in the end.
The Dodgers' first attempt at Fielder, with a high annual salary on the four years Fielder was guaranteed to be a Dodger and the always favorable player opt out, is believed to have put them among the final three teams in on Fielder, who agreed to the Tigers deal on Tuesday that was first reported by CBSSports.com and announced today. The Nationals have said they were in on Fielder until the end, and the Dodgers were calling in the final couple days, too, though they started to lose hope the final weekend when the Tigers' big bid materialized, people familiar with the negotiations told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. Boras said, "I was only dealing with teams offering eight years or more'' by the end. One other interested GM said Boras told them their seven-year offer didn't even qualify for submission.
The Dodgers' first offer was said to have called for an average salary of about $26 million for the first four years and something in the low $20-million-range in the next three years. That bid was designed not to discourage Fielder from opting out and possibly moving to the American League where he could DH afterbeing the Dodgers'; forst baseman for four years. That total Dodgers deal was believed to have been worth a guarantee in the low $160 millions. It isn't known whether it included options or vesting options.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who is about to auction the team that's in bankruptcy, is not disallowed by the bankruptcy court from making such major baseball calls even though the team is slated to change hands April 30. The Los Angeles Times reported there are 20 wealthy bidders for the storied franchise that is expected to sell for at least $1.5 billion, and perhaps more. McCourt was fully on board with the offer extended to Fielder.
At least one prospective Dodgers bidder said he had heard about the team's involvement with Fielder but declined to comment on how such a mega contract might affect the purchase price. The expected record price for the Dodgers is being driven in large part by an ultra-competitive TV market, and having a third superstar to go with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw may have been seen as a positive. The homegrown superstar Kemp was signed to a $160-million, eight-year Dodgers deal earlier this offseason in a move that was applauded by everyone.
The Dodgers have reduced their payroll to $90 million for the coming season, very small for the big-market team -- though for Fielder, who they saw as a special case, they were willing to push the payroll to close to $120 million.
The Dodgers tendered their longtime first baseman James Loney a contract and expect him to be their first baseman. They are not unhappy with him at all but merely saw Fielder as a rare opportunity to land one of the game's best hitters. There has been speculation the new owner, whoever that may be, will be in position to take a shot out at Reds superstar first baseman Joey Votto when he becomes a free agent in two years. However, Dodgers baseball people saw Fielder as an immediate chance at someone they believe is well-suited for a big market environment.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:44 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 4:57 pm
Well, the mystery team won again. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. That makes it three mysteries solved, with Cliff Lee's $120-million Philly deal and Albert Pujols' $240-million Angels deal coming before Prince Fielder's shocker of a $214-million, nine-year Tigers deal.
We also shouldn't be surprised it was the Tigers. No owner wants to win more than Detroit's Mike Ilitch. I saw how crestfallen the Casear's pizza king was following the Tigers' defeat to the Rangers in the ALCS last year. Injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Delmon Young stripped them of their lineup power, rendering them a patsy for the stacked Texas Rangers when they looked like an equal opponent to start the series.
Yet another injury, this one to Victor Martinez, spurred this move. The fine-hitting Martinez is expected to miss the 2012 season after tearing up a knee while working out, and Ilitch didn't want to waste the 2012 season. Ilitch wants to win as badly as anyone in the game. He's the new Steinbrenner, a quieter, calmer Steinbrenner.
Word was out that the Tigers were looking at picking up Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, Vladimir Guerrero or Hideki Matsui, Four accomplished players winding down their careers. Instead, they got a superstar, a coreerstone player that gives them the appearance of a shoo-in for another AL Central title and another crack at the World Series title that has eluded Ilitch, despite his incredible efforts and extraordinary tolerance for spending.
The $214-million contract, which was first reported by CBSSports.com, shouldn't shock folks. After all, Fielder is a 27-year-old slugger, a cleaup hitter and leader to build around. There is no opt-out but the salaries are said to be spread evely over the deal, making it worth exactly what it purports to be worth.
They're celebrating in Detroit. Miguel Cabrera, who will vacate first base for Fielder, is said to be thrilled to welcome Fielder, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. What surprises everyone is that Fielder didn't go to the Nationals, Orioles, Rangers or any one of the other five or six teams that was mentioned prominently for weeks, if not months.
As it turns out, the Nationals were the only one of those teams in the mix at the very end. They saw Fielder as their answer to the need for lefthanded power until Bryce Harper arrives. There is believed to have been a third team in the mix. Yes, yet another mystery team.
At this point, the only mystery is that even now no one believes the call of the mystery team.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:44 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:22 am
Indications are Prince Fielder has narrowed the field of teams in his derby to four or five, and the Nationals, Orioles and Rangers are believed to be among those teams. So he's down to a "final four'' (or so), if you will.
The other involved team or two aren't known, but an unpublicized team can't be ruled out. Under-the-radar pursuers, often dubbed the "mystery'' teams, have become prominent the past couple years, as both Cliff Lee and Albert Pujols wound up signing with such a team. The other teams connected to Fielder at one time or other have included the Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays, Cubs and incumbent Brewers, but none of those teams has been seen as a favorite in recent days.
The Nationals have been seen as a favorite for weeks, though some people connected to the team say they are reluctant to give out an ultra long deal again, after signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126-million last winter. The Orioles, like their local rival, have seemed to downplay their interest. But their biggest issue may be luring Fielder with little immediate prospect of winning.
The Rangers, a team that came out of the woodwork to sign Adrian Beltre last winter, have suggested that they are "unlikely'' to sign Fielder based mostly on requests for a deal of eight to 10 years. They are clearly still involved after signing Yu Darvish. Though they don't seem likely to be the high bidder, they remain hopeful that a chance to be part of one of the game's great lineups will enhance their chances.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:11 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:48 am
The Texas Rangers, the two-time defending American League champions, are at the center of the action this week, with the Yu Darvish deadline looming Wednesday and the continuing Prince Fielder intrigue, which began to boil over when Fielder was discovered to be meeting with top Texas brass in Dallas last Friday -- not to mention a couple other smaller talks ongoing thrown in for good measure.
The great likelihood is that the Darvish deal gets done for slightly more than "Dice-K money,'' say people familiar with the talks who are referring to the $52-million, six-year contract Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Boston Red Sox. That's logical because while Darvish is considered the better pitcher (18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and a Pacific League-leading 276 strikeouts in 2011), the posting fee of $51,703,411 for him was just barely above the $51,111,111 fee the Red Sox paid for Matsuzaka, and Darvish's agent Arn Tellem has no other alternative but to take him back to Japan, in what is seen as a generally unpalatable alternative for star Japanese stars who go to the trouble of posting.
While there was still said to be a difference on the years, with Darvish wanting five so he could become a free agent at 30, and Texas wanting to repeat Matsuzaka's six-year contract, everyone surrounding the negotiation suggested the deal is likely to get done before the deadline Wednesday if the range of $55 million. (side note: Boston's first offer to Matsuzaka had been half that, $28 million.)
If the Darvish deal does somehow fall through (unlikely), the Rangers would suddenly become the overwhelming favorite to land Fielder. But the bigger question is whether the Rangers would be willing to pay the freight for Fielder if more than $100 million is committed to Darvish.
Rangers people have consistently characterized that possibility of a Texas superstar two-step as "unlikely,'' and a $300-million week would indeed be extraordinary for a team that isn't in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles (or even Los Angeles of Anaheim). However, Texas, a team that recently had been receiving luxury tax payouts, is committed to winning and on the rise financially with its rapdily increasing TV and attendance revenues and relatively new oil baron owners.
Rangers people also are full of surprises, like last winter when they stole Adrian Beltre late, after the rival Angels and A's had bid earlier. This time, Texas may have even more incentive to make a big play, what with the Angels earlier having their own $317.5-million week between their pricey new imports Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the former Ranger.
Rangers people like to keep things secret, and their clandestine meeting last week with Fielder at the Four Seasons in Dallas only leaked because the wedding of Pirates star reliever Joel Hanrahan (yet another star player the Rangers have tried for this winter) happened to be at the same hotel at the same time, so the players and agents at the wedding started telling people they had seen Fielder and/or agent Scott Boras with Rangers brass Nolan Ryan, Texas' icon and managing partner, and GM Jon Daniels. Rangers people also knows it doesn't do anything positive for the psyche of incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland or even incumbent positional superstar Josh Hamilton if Fielder speculation keeps mushrooming.
It's possible Ryan and Daniels were just covering their bases on the off chance Darvish doesn't get done. But the Rangers do seem to love the idea of signing Fielder, which while prohibitive could make sense if they allow Hamilton to leave as a free agent after this season. Hamilton has been a tremendous asset since Daniels acquired him in a deal for Edinson Volquez and a minor-league pitcher after Reds medical people forced the deal, but Fielder is younger, less injury prone and generally a safer bet (Hamilton's father-in-law Michael Dean just bowed out as his accountability partner).
Beyond the simultaneous dances with the two huge stars, the Rangers are looking to add a lefty reliever and bench player, and have considered Mike Gonzalez and Ryan Spilborghs. But of course, the first thing to do is figure out whether they will add one superstar or two.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 5:01 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:49 am
Top free agent slugger Prince Fielder has embarked on a second tour of teams today, and is expected to meet with multiple teams, perhaps four or more, on this excursion as he narrows his expansive field of free-agent options.
Fielder is in Texas today meeting with the Rangers, as @BNightengale reported. But that shouldn't be seen as prove they are about to sign Fielder. The Rangers are expecting to spend $100 million or so on Japanese pitching import Yu Darvish, and there have been mixed signals as to whether they might be able to sign both Darvish and Fielder.
The Orioles, Nationals, Mariners, Marlins and incumbent Brewers ave been seen as the other main players, but there may be more. The Cubs and Blue Jays are among others to have shown interest.
The other teams on the tour aren't known as of yet.