By Rich Dubroff
The Orioles want their Prince to come. Badly.
In a thin free agent market, Prince Fielder is the Orioles obvious target. Its been a long time since they were serious suitors for major free agents.
Eight years ago, the Orioles made a major pushsigning Miguel Tejada to a six-year, 72 million dealand that remains their largest deal.
Since then, they havent been major participants. Under Andy MacPhail, they emphasized one-year contracts to older players. None were terribly successful.
Now, a new general manager would be expected to go after the Milwaukee Brewers first baseman. Why should they?
After 14 losing seasons, the Orioles will want to show that theyre serious about winning. What better way than to target the primo free agent.
While Albert Pujols is more widely known than Fielder, hes four years older. At 27, Fielder is considered in his prime. Hes averaged 37 home runs and 106 RBIs with a lifetime batting average of .282.
Fielder is durable. Hes missed only one game in the past three seasons, and in the past four seasons, hes twice led the Brewers into the postseason.
While hes said to be happy in Milwaukee, Fielders agent is Scott Boras. That means Fielder is not likely to give the Brewers a discount.
Boras long had an acrimonious relationship with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, but MacPhails arrival in 2007 enabled the team to sign one of his clients, first-round draft choice Matt Wieters.
A new GM must be able to work with Boras and get the go-ahead from Angelos to put together the sort of astounding financial package it will take to get Fielder.
At 27, Fielder could command a 10-year contract at 25 million. That price tag would cause many potential suitors to shun him.
Baltimores competition could come from Seattle, the Chicago Cubs, the Angels and Nationals. Many within baseball assume that Pujols will re-sign with the Cardinals, and while the Brewers will make an attempt to keep him, theyll fall short.
Last December, baseball was flabbergasted when Washington signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, 126 million deal. The Orioles are hoping to snatch Fielder, but they probably will wait to see how the market develops. Losing Fielder to the Nationals would be an embarrassment.
Why would Fielder sign with Baltimore?
Longtime NFL agent Ralph Cindrich, who teaches sports law classes says there are solid reasons for a player to sign with a non-contending team.
The opportunity to be a part of a team that could be special. A position that uses his skills more effectively. I would not do it if he were happy where he was, Cindrich said. Guys make a mistake if they move only for money.
Most do it for the money, obviously.
After MacPhail took over the Orioles in June 2007, he reached out to Joe Girardi, who had been fired by Florida, to replace Sam Perlozzo. Girardi probably had no interest in Baltimore, but reportedly expressed concern about the quality of schools in the area.
Children, and more importantly, spouses can play a big role. Sometimes the wives have a serious business or the children are just where you want them to be. Crime in a city is a factor. But mostly, if a guy is a player and has a career opportunity, its time to move, Cindrich said.
Fielder has been part of a team with several high-profile players: Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Zack Grienke. Hes unlikely to want to be the man as Werth did, but maybe hell want to be the unquestioned face of the Orioles. Milwaukee isnt a high pressure media market. Nor is Baltimore.
Werth wanted that money, but chafed at the limelight in Washington. In Philadelphia, he was just one of a number of prominent players.
It is important for a leader. Every competitor wants to be the best. It brings with it baggage.
Guys need to know in advance whether they are prepared, Cindrich said.
On Friday, the Orioles interviewed Dan Duquette, the onetime Boston Red Sox general manager. Theyll reportedly talk with New York Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer early next week.
The 53-year-old Duquette has been toiling in relative obscurity since he was ousted from the Red Sox nearly a decade ago. The cousin of former Orioles executive Jim Duquette, hes been running a sports camp and been active in international and amateur baseball in recent years.
Former Kansas City GM Allard Baird declined an opportunity to interview. The Orioles were denied a chance to meet with Minnesota scouting director Mike Radcliff.
Duquette, Scott Proefrock, Philadelphias assistant general manager and Orioles minor league director John Stockstill are the only remaining known candidates. De Jon Watson, a Dodgers executive, who had been interviewed in the first round, withdrew.