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Good morning, Theo.
I'm sorry I haven't been more in touch since you took over the Cubs but I'm here for you now and I have one thing in particular I'd like to discuss.
It is time to seriously pursue Prince Fielder.
I know you're in love with the idea of Anthony Rizzo playing first base at Wrigley in the near future despite flaming out during a .140-hitting 60-game tryout in the bigs last year. Rizzo will start the season in Triple-A.
And I know you're set on giving Bryan LaHair his dream shot at first before Rizzo is ready, and that's sweet.
Those guys clearly deserve a chance, Mr. Cubs President. But they don't necessarily deserve a shot with the team that calls Wrigley Field home.
That team has drawn more than three million fans to its relatively small ball park every year since 2004 (the Cubs only drew 2.9 million in 2003). That team is one of the highest revenue-producing teams in the National League.
Did I mention that Prince Fielder is available? And that he can almost certainly be had at a substantial discount? That this is the same Prince Fielder who has already hit 230 home runs in his six-season career and has also recorded an average of 110 walk his last three years? He slumped a bit in 2010 but his on-base plus slugging, the stat that quite simply counts the most for hitters, was .981 last year and was 1.014 in 2009. Oh by the way it was 1.013 in 2007.
You and I both know these are outstanding numbers. They are historic numbers. You and I both know there is a pretty good chance you will never have a chance to sign a better hitter in your career as a baseball executive. Oh, and this first baseman is only 27-years-old. 27!
And Theo, it must also be pointed out that those who think Fielder is a higher-than-average injury risk because he is not exactly svelte, well, those folks don't know what they are talking about. First of all, Fielder has missed exactly one game in the past three years. That's right, he has played 485 out of a possible 486 games since the start of the 2009 season. In the three years prior to that, Fielder did miss a few games; he only averaged 158 games played per season.
Fielder can be had for a discount because agent Scott Boras hasn't been able to find a Tom Hicks. Hicks was the owner of the Texas Rangers in the year 2000 who was so determined to make a free-agency splash that he gave Alex Rodriguez a $252 million, 10-year contract. Specifics of other offers aren't available but it is safe to say the total dollars in that contract were way beyond what anyone else was even considering offering at the time.
Actually this year Boras isn't looking for a Tim Hicks, he's looking for another Arte Moreno. Moreno is the Angels owner who signed a $250 million contract with Albert Pujols last month. Everyone assumed Fielder, who is four years younger than Pujols, would get an even better deal, but just about all of the big money teams left either aren't interested (the Red Sox and Yankees) or haven't come close to meeting Boras' initial demands. A few smaller middle-money teams, like the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals, are reportedly still interested but they seemingly haven't been close to willing to pay Boras' price.
It appeared the Texas Rangers, who recently signed a huge local TV deal, would be a natural suitor for Fielder. But they just spent more than $110 million to sign 25-year-old Japanese ace pitcher Yu Darvish. And over the weekend one of their principal managers said he would rather spend big dollars on a contract extension for Josh Hamilton, who is a free agent after the 2012 season, than Fielder.
So what will it take for the Cubs to sign Fielder? Would it be possible to offer him, say, a front-loaded eight-year deal for $200 million? Boras would almost certainly want an opt-out for his client after three years and couldn't the Cubs set it up so they could opt-out too? That way they would really only be on the hook for three years at, say, $80 million?
The beautiful thing is the Cubs could do this deal tomorrow and thanks to the fact that they no longer have to pay Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome and several other expensive players whose contracts ran out at the end of last year, their payroll would still be down from last year. If the Cubs don't sign Fielder, they will go into next season with a far lower payroll than in 2011.
And if that is the case, Theo, tell your guy Tom Ricketts that at the very least he better not be coming to the taxpayers of Chicago looking for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax revenues to renovate Wrigley Field.
* Yahoo! Big League Stew: Is This The Week Prince Fielder Finally Signs?
* New York Times: Fielder's Options Are As Narrow As His Talent Is Vast
Correction: During last week's celebration of the fact that the Packers would not win consecutive Super Bowls for the second time, I neglected to mention that there had indeed been one other team who had accomplished the feat. That would of course - of course! - have been the Steel Curtain Steelers of 1975 and 1976 and 1979 and 1980. The columnist regrets the error.More from Beachwood Sports »
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