By Ross Newhan
Now that the Angels have signed Albert Pujols to a 10 year, 254 million contract and almost all of the principal free agents have been accounted for, the question is, "has a baseball Prince been left to go a-begging?"
Renowned agent Scott Boras insists not.
"The Prince Fielder slugger train has a lot of passengers," Boras said by telephone Thursday. "A lot of teams are involved."
Boras has been known to inflate the interest in his clients, but there have been few rumors regarding the Milwaukee first baseman. If there are a lot of passengers on the Fielder train, they may be traveling incognito.
Seattle, still? Maybe Washington, Miami, the Cubs,
Perhaps, the Brewers could still find a seat on the train, particularly since they may lose their left fielder and National League MVP Ryan Braun for the first 50 games of the 2012 season because of a drug suspension.
"We're at the point of discussions (because of price and length of contract) where the owners are involved," Boras said. "They can fly into Orange County for a day and fly out without getting much attention."
With Boras's home and corporation based in Newport, John Wayne Airport is in the Fielder flight pattern. Has the Pujols contract scared off potential bidders?
Two different things, Boras said, pointing out that Pujols will be 32 in January. Fielder won't be 28 until May.
Over the last three years, while drawing acclaim as baseball's greatest hitter, Pujols has hit only 10 more homers than Fielder and driven in only eight more runs.
"Normally," Boras said, "a player with Fielder's slugging credentials would be approaching (a long term contract situation) at a later stage of his career. When I did the Alex Rodriguez contract (with the New York Yankees for 10 years and $275 million in 2007), Alex was 32. You were looking at only so many premium years. Fielder is 27. All of his (potential contract) years are premium years."
Boras would not say if he was looking to match or exceed the Pujols contract because of Fielder's age advantage.
"The A-Rod contract (baseball's highest) is about $300 million," Boras said. "I sense the Angels wanted to slide in under that umbrella.
"I give Arte (Moreno) credit for stepping up as he did with Pujols and the pitcher (C.J. Wilson)."
At the same time, some in the Boras camp think the smarter move would have been for the Angels to sign the younger (and probably cheaper) Fielder for fewer years, giving them the left-handed power hitter they lack unless Kendrys Morales returns after missing 1 1/2 years with a broken left leg.
Boras reiterated that the Pujols' contract and the eventual Fielder contract are two different things and that a Fielder deal should be done soon.
"The interest level has become more defined," he said, and that no owner or general manager has brought up concern to him that the 5-foot-ll, 255 pound Fielder could have a tough time controlling his weight over a long term contract, eventually ballooning like his father, Cecil Fielder, did.
"Prince understands what he needs to do and has a regimented work schedule," Boras said. "He's 40 pounds lighter than when he was 16."
Fielder has averaged 39 home runs and 114 RBI over the last three years. Hefty numbers. It will be interesting to find out who emerges from that train, and how heavy the contract is.