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Monday, January 2, 2012

Are Prince Fielder and San Francisco Giants Good For Each Other?

As I have already written, I believe it is a big gamble for a team to give Prince Fielder the kind of contract (200 million plus) that is rumored to be his asking price. That being said, there are teams who will jockey for his services and pay a premium, although there is one in particular that would benefit the most. That team is the San Francisco Giants.

There is no indication that the Giants have even expressed interest in Fielder, but if they are willing to take a financial plunge, they could stand the gain the most from signing the slugging first baseman. The Giants already have a World Series caliber pitching staff, headed by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Brian Wilson. What they lack is a consistent offense that can match other top teams.  Currently, the 2012 Giants’ lineup projects to be Pablo Sandoval, whatever Buster Posey can give them coming back from injury, and a mishmash of young and veteran bats with questionable upside. Signing Fielder would place an anchor squarely in the middle of their order and allow the Giants to build around him.

Bringing Fielder on board would allow the Giants to push their best prospect, first baseman Brandon Belt, to the outfield. They have mismanaged his development the past two seasons, between playing him inconsistently and shuttling him between first and the outfield. Attempting to trade him would be unwise because of how they have diminished his value. He needs to play every day at one position to truly gauge what he can do. If he hits the way many feel he can, the Giants could put up with his below average defense in leftfield.

The Giants also have Aubrey Huff, whose best position is first base. But with one year and 11 million dollars left on his deal, the team could afford to start the season with him on the bench, and then seek a trade to a team with a hole or injury.

Fielder would be a marketing boon to San Francisco. If there is any player who could rival Barry Bonds and his ability to blast balls into the bay at AT&T Park, it would be fielder. His gargantuan home runs routinely splashing down would be a big draw and something that would garner regular national highlight coverage on television. He would also be the first offensive player with the ability to put some distance between the Giants and the much maligned Bonds, whose specter has lingered over the Bay Area since he retired following the 2007 season.

While a huge deal with Fielder has a good chance of ending poorly because of conditioning issues, and because such deals rarely seem to have happy conclusions, it still may be a worthwhile risk just for what can be gained in the short term. Without a solid offense, the team is wasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and a chance to build off the momentum of their 2010 World Series victory.

The Giants may be feeling a bit shy about extending a large contract to anyone, given the way they were burned by the 126 million dollar deal they lavished on Barry Zito, but in baseball, the show must go on. With the Dodgers in tatters, the Padres rebuilding, and the Rockies stuck in mediocrity, the Giants have an opportunity to make a major power grab in the National League West.

In the current landscape of baseball free agency, sure things do not exist. Money and risk are the names of the game, and if the Giants are willing to dole out and assume plenty of both, they may dramatically alter the immediate future for their franchise and make Prince Fielder a rich and happy man.


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