A game of chicken
Sometimes free agent sweepstakes are just what the title states; a game of chicken. Yesterday we heard that some MLB General Managers are under the impression that at some point Prince Fielder might have to resign himself to the reality that he’s going to have to take a much shorter deal than what he thinks he’s due. Not surprisingly, Fielder’s agent Scott Boras immediately shot down those rumors as preposterous. Boy, talk about an elephant in the room! The question is who is believable, and who’s not?
First off, I would point out that Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette indicated at the winter meetings that he would wait for the market on Fielder to soften a bit before jumping in head first. As I’ve said in the past, as we look back on those comments now it’s almost as if Duquette knew something we didn’t. However regardless of whether or not Fielder would take a three-year deal (which was the length of the contract that was reported), at this point any rational person would assume that he isn’t going to get the ten-year contract he wants out of a team.
Scott Boras of course has denied that he would ever insinuate such a thing like this, however is it truly that unbelievable? Odds are that Boras is keenly aware of the fact that teams are wary of giving Fielder a long-term deal to the tune of ten years. So it’s entirely possible that this idea was floated out there in hopes that a team would potentially bite on offering more than those three years. Whether not not it’ll ultimately prove effective is another story; time will tell there. However as a GM you mightthink what the heck, I’ll offer 5-6 years. If Boras’ goal was to get a 7-10 year deal, and the team wanted in the 3-4 year range, you’ve just split the difference (and for potentially big money).
So am I suggesting that Dan Duquette play into Boras’ game? Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying. I would even argue that three years isn’t enough in that Fielder could still walk at thirty and probably get a decent deal someplace else. (Might the Yankees and/or Boston not be ready for a first baseman at that point?) The other side is that perhaps his stats start to slip earlier than expected due to his body type, in which case a team signing him to a three-year deal would get everything they could out of him in the interim.
As a GM, you want your team to be competitive in the free agent market, however you don’t want to get used by agents. In that sense, Boras is the best in the business. Here’s the other thing; Boras was previously on icy terms with Oriole front offices due to the fact that Peter Angelos appeared to not be willing to pay the big bucks for talent. However one indisputable thing that MacPhail did was open up a dialouge and thaw that relationship. Now with the likes of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado being under Boras’ thumb, I’d hate to see them go to another team when the time comes simply because Boras doesn’t like the Orioles again. How sickening would it be for Oriole fans to have Matt Wieters tagging Adam Jones out at home plate as a member of the Red Sox or Yankees at some point down the line?
For the record, I’d like to see the Orioles offer Prince Fielder a six or seven-year contract with an out clause after three or four years. That would give Fielder the chance to opt out of his contract if he felt he was worth more than what he was being paid, and it would give the Orioles his services for the time being. The idea is not to buy too much into the hype and overpay or offer a contract that’s too long. However you don’t want to offer too little either and then have the opprotunity to watch Fielder’s introductory press conference on television as he signs with another team. That’s why it’s a game of chicken.
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