Searching valiantly for clues on Fielder’s future
Not trying to burst anyone’s bubble here, but since everyone is trying to read the tea leaves on what Prince Fielder and Scott Boras are thinking, let me toss out two Boras comments that don’t make it sound like Seattle is at the forefront of their thought process.
Boras was at the Owners Meetings on Wednesday in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and my MLB.com colleague Barry Bloom caught up with him for this update on Fielder.
Here’s the interesting quote:
“Certainly we’re going to have him signed well in advance of Spring Training,” Boras said. “I can’t give you the exact date. These things take some time. That’s why we have January and early February. Spring Training doesn’t start until late February.”
Aha. That is true for everyone EXCEPT the Mariners, who are the first team into camp with pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 11. OK, OK. Fielder isn’t a pitcher or catcher and the Mariners full-squad doesn’t report until Feb. 18. So maybe that still counts as “late February” in Boras’ mind.
But all the other MLB squads have at least an extra week, with the next-earliest pitcher-catcher reporting dates on Feb. 18 and full-squad workouts beginning from Feb. 24 or later for every other team, which is definitely late February.
The Mariners start early because their regular-season begins a week ahead of everyone else, thanks to the two games against the A’s in Tokyo on March 28-29. For some reason, the A’s aren’t starting early, so not sure what’s up with that. But here is the full schedule for reporting dates for all 30 MLB teams.
I’m joking about this being a huge issue, but it is worth bearing in mind from a Mariners’ perspective they’ll need to finalize their roster earlier than everyone else if they want to open camp with all hands on deck. Whether that means Fielder or others among the 100 remaining free agents, or a trade to bring in offensive help, the Mariners’ clock — or at least calendar — is ticking a little faster.
Then there was this much-overlooked Boras one-liner from his session with reporters at the Winter Meetings in Dallas back in December, when he finally emerged from his hotel suite late on the final night of the three-day gathering. Asked if Fielder had a geographical preference for where he’d wind up next year, as in if he preferred East or West coast or whatever, Boras said:
“I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate. That’s the geographics he likes.”
Ahem. Again, not a ringing endorsement for Seattle, given Safeco Field’s well-known reputation as a big park.
Bear in mind that none of this probably means a thing and that Boras does his magic largely by NEVER ruling any team out of contention in order to build up competition. But hey, what else do we have to do besides search for subliminal clues as the Fielder saga drags out?
If you ask me seriously, Fielder remains a longshot to land in Seattle because like any premier free agent, he’s looking for the best combination of: 1, money; 2, the chance to win a title as quickly as possible; 3, a city closest to his family and comfort zone as possible; and 4, a home park where he can put up the best numbers possible.
Money can and often does trump all, but the Mariners will likely need to be the clear-and-away top bidder to override Nos. 2, 3 and 4 there and that means going longer term and/or higher-per-annum than anyone else. And if that takes them up into the A-Rod/Pujols stratosphere, I just don’t see that being a gamble the Mariners — or any other Major League team — is willing to take.
If Boras lowers the expectations and is forced to accept a smaller package in terms of years and dollars, something in what Jack Zduriencik sees as Seattle’s “threshold,” then it’s hard not to imagine other teams jumping into the bidding at that point. So we’ll see. Zduriencik isn’t saying anything and all the other potential Fielder bidders have been similarly coy or in outright denial of any interest.
That leaves us to scour the occasional Boras bread crumbs for clues. And to wait. And wait. And wait.