Once the MLB free agency opened up, most fans were concerned about two things. First, if Albert Pujols leaves St. Louis, where will he end up? Phat Al wasted little time in making a decision after signing a 10 year $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim along with former Texas Rangers ace, C.J. Wilson. While many view Pujols as a sellout after he left a 10 year deal from the Cardinals, worth around $220 million. There’s is no doubt that Albert has been the best player in baseball for the last ten seasons, but he told the front office in St. Louis what he was looking for and they backed away. It’s not like this was LeBron having the worldwide leader in sports take an hour of air time so that we could learn meaningless facts about James’ life and then hear him say the famous words, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” No, Pujols is has class and dignity and told general manager, John Mozeliak that he should be the highest paid player in baseball, and LezBeHonest, he is right. If the Cards wanted to keep him so badly, why would they re-sign or at least try to trade outfielder Matt Holliday, who was awarded a 7 year, $120 million dollar contract when at the time, Holliday was 31 years old. It’s quite baffling, and being a Cubs fan aside, losing Pujols is not something a team can simply recover from in one season.
This leads us into the second horrific mistake made in the MLB free agency sweepstakes. It was assumed that once Pujols signed with a club, Prince Fielder would follow suit immediately. While there were a number of obstacles, mainly the Texas Rangers pursuit of Yu Darvish, Fielder was quitely waiting for a team to be stupid enough to sign him to a long term contract. Fortunately for him, the Detroit Tigers recently lost their first baseman/designated hitter/backup catcher/clean up hitter for the season in Victor Martinez, who tore his ACL in an off season workout. The Tigers were never really mentioned as a player for Fielder, and if there were any rumors, they were quickly dismissed. This gave Detroit an edge above the two major contenders, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals. This sneak attack proved to be successful, but is not necessarily a good decision for the future of the Tigers. As I have mentioned multiple times in previous posts, and as history has shown, these long term deals for superstar players never seem to pan out.
Fielder, who is currently 27, will turn 28 in May and does not have an ideal frame for a first baseman. He is generously listed at 5’11, 275 pounds, but I do have to say that after seeing him in person this past summer from the first row behind the plate, I would say he is closer to 5’9 or 5’10 and pushing 300 pounds. While Fielder most certainly has at least three more superstar-level seasons in him, once he turns 32 or 33 it will be all down hill for Fielder. Some supporting evidence for this hypothesis is that Prince’s father, Cecil Fielder, who was nearly identical to Prince in both statistics and stature, fell off the map after turning 32. It took Cecil a few more years to attain superstar status, but once he went to Detroit in 1990, when he was 26 turning 27, he hit .277 with 51 home runs and 132 RBIs. From 1990-1996, Cecil hit .257 with 258 home runs and 808 RBIs, however in his final three seasons, he hit .214, 30 homers and 129 RBIs. As you can see, his stats fell dramatically once he began to age. If this is any indication of how Prince will pan out, the Tigers will be in a lot of trouble in a few years with a short, overweight most likely designated hitter who will be receiving $27-$30 million per season.