Chicago Cubs: Prince Fielder
Sveum was a Milwaukee Brewers coach for six of the seven seasons Fielder spent with the Brewers, including the last three seasons as hitting coach.
Under Sveum’s tutelage, Fielder delivered his two highest RBI totals in a season, driving in 120 runs last season and a whopping league-leading 141 in 2009. Fielder’s two highest batting averages also came with Sveum as his batting coach. He batted .299 in both 2009 and 2011.
“It will be good to see him,” Sveum said. “He’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever been around or coached. I don’t want to see him in the lineup, but it will be good to see him again and all that. He’s one of those special guys and not even because of his numbers, just the way he plays the game."
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Fans hoping the team would be filling its power void with the addition of Prince Fielder, however, had those wishes shot down on Saturday.
"There haven't been any discussions with us for Prince, that's just not going to happen," newly installed manager Dale Sveum told a room full of fans at a question and answer session Saturday. "We have our first baseman in Bryan LaHair and [Anthony] Rizzo waiting in the wings as well. We're doing OK with big power left-handed hitters right now. "
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"Not only is that inaccurate and delusional, but it seems that some people have gotten into their New Year's Eve stash just a little bit early this year," Boras told ESPNChicago.com on Tuesday.
Apparently there are still upwards of six teams still interested in Fielder. Teams such as the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers would certainly be part of the bidding, although it's unclear how many years they would be willing to offer. Boas told ESPNChicago in November that bidding would start at seven years for Fielder, who is the highest profile free agent left on the market. However that was before Albert Pujols received a 10-year, $254 million contract from the Los Angeles Angels on Dec. 8.
Boras has stated all along that comparisons between the situations for Pujols and Fielder are totally different because Fielder is five years younger than Pujols.
"It appears some baseball people are just bored," Boras said. "That's when you hear ideas like that floated."
Fielder has told friends he expects the Cubs to be involved in the bidding all the way. Other teams who have expressed interest are said to be the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and a bid from the Los Angeles Dodgers might be pending if they can get clearance from Major League Baseball to get involved. The Dodgers are under MLB control and the team is being run by the league until a new owner is found. But that does not preclude GM Ned Colletti from putting together his team.
There were indications Thursday that the Cubs are getting more involved in the Fielder sweepstakes and might be ready to step up their pursuit of the free agent first baseman, a league source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
Fielder fits into the Cubs' present and future plans as laid out by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. He has said the Cubs will try to build through the amateur draft and international scouting as well as trades and free agency for young building blocks for the franchise. At 27, Fielder fits into that category for the Cubs.
Fielder will seek a deal of seven years or more as a starting point.
The Cubs, who have a bid in on Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, have $60 million coming off the books from 2011, but they already have close to $100 million in commitments for 2012. That includes $75 million to just eight players not counting arbitration-eligible players or free agent reliever Kerry Wood, who they expect to sign. The Cubs already have $5 million on the books for 2012 as a deferred payment on Carlos Pena's 2011 contract.
The loss of Albert Pujols, who signed a 10-year deal worth as much as $250 million, according to sources, is a big blow to the St. Louis Cardinals and can be a huge difference for the Cubs when examining the shift of power in the NL Central. With Pujols gone and Prince Fielder likely leaving Milwaukee, the top two teams in the division will be scrambling to maintain a perception of dominance.
This is now a perfect opportunity for Cubs ownership and the new front office to make a big run at Fielder.
“As to what level of interest [the Cubs have] you should probably ask them,” Fielder's agent Scott Boras said Wednesday. “Any team that wants to get better whether they are a younger team or a veteran team or a club that wants to win now, not many teams that are in need can pass up a core player like this.”
Fielder wants at least a seven-year deal, and now because of Pujols' contract, likely 10. The Cubs Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins and now possibly the Cardinals will be in hot pursuit of Fielder, according to industry sources.
At 27, Fielder is the type of young, dominant player the Cubs would like to build a championship team around. Look for the Cubs to move aggressively in a smart way toward signing Fielder while also concentrating on the international market. Right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish has committed to posting, and the Cubs will make a bid on his services. They will also take a run at Cuban outfieder Yoenis Cespedes, who is being courted by seven or eight teams. The bidding on Cespedes could go as high as $50 million.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are determined to put their economic resources toward young, impact players and Fielder certainly fits the bill. He recently told a former teammate that he felt the Cubs would make the biggest push for him in the offseason.
Now with Pujols out of the way, the Cubs should be going full steam ahead in the pursuit of a young difference maker on the field and at the ticket booth.
The perception before Pujols signed was that he and Fielder didn't have as many suitors as initally believed. Now with Pujols out of the picture, Fielder is in the cat bird's seat with big market teams.
Super agent Scott Boras wouldn’t tip his hand on Wednesday night when he met with the media.
“I’m going to be leaving here and going to meet with Prince to talk about the varying opportunities there are for him," Boras said. "Then we will sit down and begin the process of letting teams know what direction he wants to take. He will kind of prioritize it for me.”
Boras told ESPNChicago.com last week that seven years would be the minimum Fielder would be looking for on the free-agent market.
On Wednesday night, Boras said that teams like the Cubs are still organizing their offseason plans due to the fact that there’s so many knew GMs around the league.
“We have a large group of teams, almost a quarter of them, that have new general mangers. What that means is they’re getting to know their players, their staff and they’re getting to know the other players," Boras said. "In doing so, they want to be thorough and they want to be calculated, especially when you’re talking about franchise commitments that they are going to have to represent to ownership as a result of our meetings.”
Although Epstein told the media on Wednesday that the Cubs would pursue smaller pieces, the 27-year-old Fielder fits perfectly in both their short- and long-term plans. The Cubs have about $60 million coming off last year’s $131 million payroll. Because of arbitration and contract escalations, the team currently has around $90 million committed to next season’s payroll – that includes $4.5 million as a part of David DeJesus’ new deal and $5 million owed to Carlos Pena for playing this past season.
Still they should have the payroll flexibility to add a star like Fielder.
“There are a whole number of teams that are making offers,” Boras said.
Will the Cubs be one of the team’s making a push for Fielder?
“As to what level of interest [they have] you should probably ask them,” Boras said. “Any team that wants to get better whether they are a younger team or a veteran team or a club that wants to win now, not many teams that are in need can pass up a core player like this.”
DALLAS – Although the Chicago Cubs have been rumored to be in the Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols sweepstakes for months, president for baseball operations Theo Epstein says he is more interested in focusing on little deals to improve the team.
The Cubs still are working on a trade that could bring third baseman Ian Stewart from the Rockies to Chicago for a possible package of Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu, according to major league sources.
”Absolutely,” Epstein said when asked if smaller deals could lead to good things. “They are only big or small when they are viewed retrospectively. I remember my first winter in Boston we signed a released player for a million bucks and it turned out to be David Ortiz. Then we signed a previously injured third baseman who couldn’t hit for power named Bill Mueller, and he won the batting title the next year. Those were all small moves that turned out to be big moves down the line. And ultimately, they helped us win.”
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer in their first winter meetings since joining the Cubs organization, are finding the trade market a little sparse at the moment.
“It’s a little bit harder to [make moves] in this environment,” he said. “It’s a more competitive landscape now. But [smaller deals] are the types of moves that we are focused on right now.”
As previously stated the Cubs remain attached to the Pujols and Fielder rumors. And it is within Epstein’s makeup that he lays in the weeds and flies in to make a stealth move – as he did on Carl Crawford last winter.
Earlier in the day, Hoyer said on the MLB Network that the Cubs’ involvement in Fielder may have been overblown.
Epstein says the Cubs are content to grind out the smaller deals for now.
“Those are the types of moves that we are focused on,” Epstein said. “I think that fits where we are right now, and it fits the picture of our roster and resources, to try and get incrementally better and build toward the future.
DALLAS – The Chicago Cubs were not going to confirm or deny reports that they made an offer to free-agent slugger Albert Pujols on Tuesday. They also wouldn’t comment on whether or not they will make an offer to Prince Fielder in the coming days.
By the same token, the Cubs wouldn’t deny interest in getting the best players in the game as a part of their future.
“Well they have to be great players,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “You only do deals for great players. And you want to make sure you’re paying for the future not for the past. But if you’re going to talk about a long deal, it better be for a great player and an elite talent. Otherwise, those are recipes for disaster.”
The Marlins and Cardinals seem to be at the front of the pack of teams bidding on Pujols. Miami reportedly wants an answer to its offer, which is being reported as a 10-year deal, in the next two days.
Despite all that, Hoyer doesn’t believe that his team or any other is being held up by the Pujols and Fielder conversations.
“I think it’s been pretty active actually here,” Hoyer said. “Already there have been some big signings and big trades. I don’t think the industry is held up by a couple of guys. I don’t think that one of those two names has to come off the board before people get going. There already has been a lot of activity.”
Hoyer doesn’t feel that rumors of the Cubs being involved in the bidding for both superstars are disruptive to the team’s offseason plans.
“I don’t think it’s good or bad. It’s just the nature of a big market,” Hoyer said. “When you’re in a big market, you’re involved with a lot of players. And your name is going to get attached. As a rule we don’t confirm or deny those reports. If you start doing that, you have to confirm or deny all the time. As a rule, it’s best to keep those negotiations with teams and players in house.”
The Cubs feel that some news that comes out through agent sources and other teams’ confidants isn’t necessarily the end of the world.
“I think it makes the fan base know we are working hard when we are attached to a lot of teams and players,” Hoyer said. “At least they know we are trying to make the team better.”
Perception is the key to all leverage and in the case of the Chicago Cubs' interest in free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the perception that they are interested in both players should help them hone in on the one they really want.
Having the Cubs as a possible suitor for both star first basemen allows the agents for both players to have a big market like Chicago help boost the price of the contract. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has the go-ahead to sign a free agent mega deal if Epstein believes that is the way to go.
If Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are truly interested in Pujols and Fielder then using one agent against the other is probably a pretty sound strategy. The Cubs, who were planning to rebuild the franchises by spending big money in the amateur draft, have been stymied by the new Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement with the players association. The pool of money for the draft will be controlled and taxed heavily if a team goes over their cap.
That new process alone may have changed the Cubs' plan of attack over the next five years.
Scott Boras, Fielder's agent, had a meeting with Epstein and Hoyer at the general managers meetings on Nov. 15 in Milwaukee. Boras' clients also include Cubs free agent first baseman Carlos Pena. When Boras was asked about Fielder and the Cubs he didn't back away from the fact that Fielder has hit well at Wrigley Field in his career.
The perception that the Cubs would pursue Pujols would also give them a chance to make life miserable for their top rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Reports have the Cardinals still having a long-term offer on the table for Pujols. The Cubs would like nothing more than to drive up the price for Pujols and ultimately get him out of the league or at least the National League Central.
"We never talk about free agent players," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "As I stated in the past, we are a major market team and we will be involved across the spectrum. So I'm not going to address if we are on or off individual players. We've been in contact with a lot of different teams and a lot of agents and we're doing everything we can to improve the team now and in the future."
In comparing the two players, the only areas that Pujols is superior is defense and batting average. At 27, Fielder is a building block Epstein and Co. can build around. Pujols, at age 32, doesn't seem like a fit for the Cubs.
The Cardinals have $80 million committed to nine players for their 2012 payroll. Pujols' price tag alone would bring it to $105 million to $110 million for next year. The Cubs have $60 million coming off the books, and the perception is they could fit a big-ticket player such as Pujols or Fielder into their budget.
The Cubs have $70 million committed to seven players for 2012. Matt Garza, Randy Wells, Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker are arbitration eligible and could bring that figure up to $90 million for 11 players.
Originally the Cubs were going to spend most of their baseball budget on the draft. But now with the new CBA, Pujols and Fielder may be at the forefront of their plans for the future.
A team’s baseball budget and baseball payroll are two different things. The Cubs will have around a $200 million budget in 2012, which represents the entire amount of money the Cubs will allocate for major league salaries, employee salaries, running the minor leagues, amateur draft signings and international free agent signings.
After saying all that, the Cubs major league payroll was at $131 million to start the 2011 campaign. The money coming off the books represents the contracts of Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Pena, John Grabow and Carlos Silva.
It’s unknown at this time as to how much money Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer are willing to spend in free agency in order to make the 2012 team more competitive. Since taking over the team, Epstin has talked mostly about long-range goals in his “Cub way” of doing things.
The highest profile free agents on the market this offseason are Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and pitcher C.J. Wilson. The agents for Fielder and Wilson talked to the Cubs at this week’s GM Meetings in Milwaukee. But one major league source said they didn’t go into great detail in any of those conversations.
With the hiring of former Milwaukee hitting coach Dale Sveum as the new Cubs manager, Fielder’s name is in the news in Chicago. The Brewers free agent will be looking for a $200 million payday. Wilson, the top left-hander on the market, is shooting for $120 million.
“I think we are now in the mode of the offseason where we’re starting to look at players,” Hoyer said on Friday. “We had a lot of conversations with agents and a lot of conversations with teams [at the GM meetings]. But we are not close on anything.
“We know what we want. Now it’s a question of continuing some of those conversations to a conclusion.”
Hoyer wouldn’t speak about whether or not the Cubs have interest in Fielder, but said he’d help any club.
“He’s a great player,” Hoyer said. “He provides a ton of production and that goes without saying. Dale [Sveum] has great respect for him. As for whether we will be involved, we can’t comment. But I think he fits anyone’s team, especially anyone that needs a first baseman.”
Cespedes agent, Adam Katz, describes Cespedes as as a five-tool player as well as an upstanding individual. The price tag for Cespedes may be five years and $40 million. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers will all have private workouts as well, and the Florida Marlins have already had one.
The Cubs may also throw their money toward the Japanese market and put in a bid for right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish. The 25-year-old right-handed star pitcher may leave Japan, but getting a Japanese player away from his original team is a complicated issue.
The system is called “posting”. Darvish’s present team in Japan, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, will take sealed bids to buy his services from their team. The highest bid gets the opportunity to negotiate a contract with the player. As an example, in 2006, the Red Sox’s blind bid of $51 million to speak with Daisuke Matsuzaka went to Matsuzaka’s team, the Seibu Lions. Boston then worked out a $50 million deal with Matsuzaka and his agent. If the highest bidding team can not work out a deal with the player, then the posting money is returned to it.
The Cubs, like numerous other teams, are interested in Darvish, who is 6-5 and of Iranian and Japanese descent. Baseball scouts compare Darvish to former Yankees and Mets starter David Cone at a similar point in their careers. According to two scouts, Darvish would go right into a major league team’s rotation and be considered a No. 1 or 2 starter depending on the depth in that team’s rotation.
Some of the Cubs’ roster changes will begin to take place between Thanksgiving and the Winter Meetings on Dec. 5 in Dallas. The Cubs need corner infielders, a run-producing outfielder and at least two starting pitchers in 2012.
“It’s still early,” Hoyer said. "But once we get to the Winter Meetings past the Thanksgiving break, things start to happen quickly.”
The Cubs have their All-Star front office and their new manager. Now all they need are some players.
That has to be the line of thinking for many fans with the news that Dale Sveum has accepted an offer to manage the Cubs after spending the past six seasons in Milwaukee working with Prince Fielder, who is one of the biggest prizes in free agency this offseason.
Although Sveum and Fielder have a good relationship, the new Cubs manager probably will have no impact on where Fielder signs. Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, is in charge of where Fielder ends up, and Boras has always been known as a guy who gets the most money and longest terms for his client.
The smart money in baseball has Fielder ending up with the Washington Nationals.
"Well, wherever he signs they are getting one heck of a guy," Sveum said. "(He's) one of my favorite people I've ever coached. And the way he competes and plays the game hard as he does every night, you wish you had 25 Prince Fielders. The leadership he brings by the way he plays is unmatched by anyone in baseball."
Fielder batted .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs in helping the Brewers win the NL Central this season. The 27-year-old first baseman has five 30-homer seasons in his six-year career and has driven in 100 runs in each of the past three seasons.
Former Cub Jerry Hairston Jr. saw the Sveum-Fielder relationship firsthand after Hairston Jr. was traded to the Brewers on July 30.
"It was interesting to watch he and Prince work together," Hairston Jr. said. "It will not hurt the Cubs' chances of getting Prince, if that's what they want to do in the offseason. Their relationship is really tight. It's about trust, both Dale and Prince have had success together. That certainly does bond a relationship."
Cubs centerfielder Marlon Byrd said the Sveum-Byrd connection makes sense but he, like everyone else, is just waiting to see what Theo Epstein and Co. have planned.
"I know that they're pretty tight," Byrd said of Sveum and Fielder. "What could be better than to get Prince here in Chicago? I don't know what Theo and Jed's plan is. Trying to bring in a great player like Prince, and knowing the relationship Sveum, has with him, could be a leg up. But that’s not my call. I'm not the GM, I'm just a player."