Baltimore Orioles: The royal sweepstakes (updated with Betemit note)

Anyone that follows twitter, message boards, columns, or sports news knows what happened yesterday. While all of us (myself included) were sleeping at about 1:30 AM a nameless source tweeted that the Washington Nationals had signed Prince Fielder. (I say a nameless source because I think that what the guy did by starting rumors is akin to just asking for publicity and I’m not going to give him any space in this column.) From then until about noon yesterday we saw a marathon of tweets and information from baseball sources regarding Fielder’s destination.

First off, this shows up how dangerous sites like twitter can be. The person in question might well be on the level and he might well know something that the rest of us don’t for my money. (I think that’s doubtful, but it’s always possible.) However when legitimate media members such as Ken Rosenthal and Jim Duquette started tweeting that there was no deal in place, it became quickly evident that nothing was up. However another thing that quickly became evident was that the Orioles were in on Fielder. I think that this confirmed what most people had known all along (myself included), but to some it may have been a surprise. All one would have had to do was to listen to Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter’s cryptic tones at Saturday’s FanFest to know this. That said, what’s the end game?

My name is not akin to the guy that tweeted the nonsense about a deal with Washington so I’m not going to say that I know the end game. However at some point some team is going to grab the bull by the horns. The Orioles have long maintained that they were interested in Fielder if his price tag came down. That appears to have happened for several reasons, the biggest of which is that Fielder is still on the open market. That in itself is surprising given the proximity to Spring Training. So again…what’s the end game, and are the Orioles serious?

We know that the they’re interested in Prince Fielder. However in my opinion (and I can’t stress enough that it’s merely an opinion) we’re kind of in a holding pattern. Odds are that Washington can probably offer Fielder the best deal in that they have the most resources to do so. However they’re also wary of tying up too much payroll money, and they’re still smarting over being burned on the Jayson Werth deal last season. (It’s also worth noting that Werth is a Boras client.) BUT, to say that the Orioles aren’t a good fit and that they don’t need a big bat in the middle of the lineup is untrue. And my opinion is that the funds are there for the Orioles to get Fielder, although I do recognize that there comes a point where you have to draw a line. I’m not suggesting that Peter Angelos couldn’t spend more on payroll to make the team more competitive, but from a business standpoint nobody’s priceless. The O’s are also probably wary of being used as leverage as they potentially were in the Texeira deal a few years ago. In other words, the Orioles don’t want to throw out contract terms because they’re afraid that Scott Boras (and Fielder) will turn around and go to the Nats (or the Rangers, another team in the mix) and ask if they’ll match it, which they probably would.

So for a third time now, what’s the end game? If anyone’s being used as leverage here, I’d say it was Texas. Boras took Fielder down to Arlington a few weekends ago for a formal visit with Rangers’ brass. If he doesn’t go to Texas, it should be clear that was all a dog and pony show designed to drive up the price for the ultimate winner. That’s business though. Ultimately who can really say what the endgame is? One thing I found very interesting is that several people yesterday went to great lengths to say that Boras and the Orioles haven’t met face-to-face in awhile. We do have these things called telephones and computers (email).

I’ll stress again what I said above; in my opinion the Orioles don’t want to make a formal offer to Fielder to avoid being played for a fool. In fact, they’ve said (through the media) that if Boras has a proposal, they’d gladly listen. That’s an interesting idea…making Boras/Fielder start that process. If Boras started at 7 years $160 million, you figure it could only go down from there. Nevertheless, this is a very tough game to play…almost as tough as baseball itself. Duquette is actually coming across as a good negotiator because he’s fully aware that the Orioles jumping in and making an offer only starts Boras down his normal path. So if you’re still asking for an endgame, I suppose I can only state what’s been stated so many times over: Prince Fielder will sign with a team at some point. The question is whether or not orange will become the color of the prince, and thus of royalty.

Update: The Orioles signed utility infielder Wilson Betemit to a two-year contract last night pending a physical. Betemit should provide bench depth with perhaps an occasional turn at DH.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

Tags: Orioles Prince Fielder

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