Orioles don’t get their prince (updated with Andino contract)


 By now we all know that Prince Fielder has signed with the Detroit Tigers for 9 years, $214 million. Let’s be frank; it was a whirlwind couple of days! Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – saw this one coming. If any of the national media personalities knew that “Prince to Detroit” was going down, they sure kept it under wraps until the very end. It appeared that the O’s and Nationals were the two finalists, which was setting up a true “battle of the beltways.” Little did anyone know that the team from Marvin Gaye’s Mo Town was about to “get it on” with Fielder and Boras.

I was surprised that after the news broke I saw Oriole fans on twitter, columns, message boards, etc. complaining that the Orioles let him get away. First off, I suppose we might never know how “in” the Orioles truly ever were in this process. MASN’s Steve Melewski seems to indicate that they followed the dealings, but that they never had a real chance at Fielder. Regardless of that, I suppose I would invite angered Oriole fans to leave a comment or two and tell me “why.” I’d be interested to know what makes people think that the Orioles (or anyone outside of Boston or NY for that matter) could or should have competed with that deal.

I would have loved to have seen Fielder playing for the Orioles. They even lowered the right field wall a bit at Camden Yards! However I also recognize that all things have their limits. There comes a point in any business negotiation where it would cease to be reasonable for one party to complete the deal. That number is different in every set of negotiations. In the Mark Texeira situation, it was 7 years, $140 million (for the Orioles). It’s unclear what that ceiling was in this case, however one could assume that it might have been in that same range.

In my opinion the Tigers vastly overpaid for Fielder. There’s certainly a chance that he defies what everyone’s thinking and is incredibly productive for most of that contract. However one would think that realistically he might start to tail off once he arrives at year five or six. So…is it still a good contract for Detroit? If the goal was to simply get Prince Fielder at all costs, then yes one could argue that it was a killer deal. However a deal like that will tie up Detroit’s payroll for the foreseeable future. Futhermore, if he isn’t productive or starts to have health problems at some point during the contract, is it still a good move?

Only the Tigers, their owner, GM, and fans can answer that, and the answer will come in due course. Yet going back to the Orioles, I can’t fault owner Peter Angelos and General Manager Dan Duquette for not going up to that level. In fact, I applaud them for not going to that point. Again, for those criticizing the Orioles this morning, I would point out that there are 28 other fan bases that are without Prince Fielder on their roster. Granted not many of those teams were rumored to have the interest in Prince Fielder that the Orioles supposedly had. However the fact is that all 28 of those other teams passed on Prince Fielder at that price either by saying no, or by not being involved.

For the Tigers’ sake, I hope the contract is a win-win. I have nothing against the Tigers, and quite frankly I respect the baseball tradition in that city. Furthermore, I find it ironic that Prince Fielder went to his Dad’s old team. We’ve all heard stories to the effect that they don’t get along and so forth; for their sake I hope that this somehow brings them together again. (Under no circumstances should a father and son not be on speaking terms.) The Tigers did what they felt was right in offering this contract, and I respect that. However in no way would that same deal have been right for the Orioles. I suppose the opposing argument would be either you’re in on Fielder or you’re not. One way or the other, I would encourage anyone with an opposing viewpoint to comment on this column; I promise it’ll be civil! I’d very much like to understand the opposite argument.

Update – Unrelated to the Fielder situation, the Orioles reached a one-year contract with utility infielder Robert Andino this morning. The exact terms of the deal (regarding money that is) are undisclosed at this time, however the contract avoids arbitration for Andino.

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