Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings are nearly a week away, and former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder has yet to meet with any clubs to discuss a new contract.
Countless rumors and whispers around the league have surfaced regarding which team has the best shot at nabbing the burly slugger, but no team has yet to establish themselves as the front-runner in the sweepstakes. With free agency moving swiftly, here are five teams who look to have the best shot at signing Fielder.
Many teams want Prince Fielder. The Seattle Mariners need Prince Fielder. Last season, the Mariners backed up their claim as MLB‘s worst-hitting club by finishing dead last in slugging percentage (.348), on-base percentage (.292), runs scored (556) and RBI (435). Miguel Olivo led the club with just 19 HR and 62 RBI, and not one player batted over .276. With Fielder available for signing, now is the perfect chance for general manager Jack Zduriencik—who was largely responsible for drafting Fielder as a scout for the Brewers back in 2002—to bolster his club’s offensive firepower. Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman believes the Mariners will be in the hunt for Fielder’s services this winter. He does, however, remain skeptical about how much capital management will have to work with.
The foregone conclusion around MLB is that Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs will go after either Fielder or Albert Pujols this winter, as the club is in serious need of a premium bat to bolster their offensive output. With the money available, Epstein should have a great shot at reeling in the hefty slugger. With former Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum running the show on the North Side, the likelihood of Fielder suiting up for the Cubs is legitimate. Needless to say, the Cubs are desperate for a power-type hitter such as Fielder if they are to contend for the NL Central next season.
While there’s no doubting how talented many of the Nationals’ top prospects may be, it’s clear that unless management makes a move for a big-time bat in the near future, Washington will continue to dwell in the NL East cellar for years to come. Ranking at or near the bottom half of all NL clubs in many offensive categories last season, the Nationals lacked the offensive firepower necessary to grapple with the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves for a division title. If GM Mike Rizzo is able to ink a premium slugger like Fielder to a long-term deal, the Nationals will be instant competitors out East next season and into the future.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have been considered suitors for Fielder for quite some time now, mostly because of their serious need for a slugger in their underachieving lineup. Newly hired GM Jerry Dipoto says he will look for other areas to improve his ballclub this offseason other than courting Fielder. Nevertheless, with first base already occupied by young star Mark Trumbo, signing Fielder to become Los Angeles’ new designated hitter seems like a real possibility at this point.
Buck Showalter and Company showed massive strides of improvement at the beginning of last year. However, their lack of power and inconsistencies at the plate put an end to their ephemeral success. Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Matt Weiters lead a solid Baltimore lineup into next season, but with the evident lack of a home run threat, it’s a foregone conclusion that 2012 will be yet another disappointing campaign for the O’s. If Baltimore has any intention of breaking through the AL East hierarchy in the near future, they’ll need to fetch a slugger like Fielder. They might just do it, too.