Saturday, December 17, 2011

Avoid being used as a pawn by Scott Boras

It is my firm belief that the Cubs are not seriously trying to acquire Prince Fielder.

Every day there is a new report that contradicts a report from the previous day in regards to the Cubs interest in the first baseman.

This isn't too different from what happened 10 years ago when another Scott Boras client, Alex Rodriguez was a free agent. The Yankees were rumored to have been interested in the shortstop back in 2001. As we all know, A-Rod signed with the Rangers for a record $252 million. Afterwards it was discovered that the Yankees were not interested and it was generally accepted that the Yankees rumors were not actually true.

In 2001, Scott Boras needed the Yankees to be involved in the "sweepstakes" in order to get A-Rod the amount of money and years that he wanted.

Prince Fielder is Boras's biggest free agent client this year (and probably his biggest client period in talent and stature). We know for a fact that big spending teams like the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox have absolutely no interest in Fielder, but the Cubs have a vacancy at first base and they have money to spend. It's very easy to assume that the Cubs might be interested in getting Prince even if he comes at an astronomical price tag.

But the Cubs aren't spending this year. Hoyer and Epstein have taken over this club and every move to this point has appeared to be aimed at cheap, short term solutions to holes that the team has. Matt Garza is on the trading block. David DeJesus and Ian Stewart have been acquired. This team isn't being built like Epstein's old team, the Red Sox. It's actually being assembled in a fashion more like Hoyer's former team, the Padres.

So could these rumors be legit? I don't think so for five reasons:

First, the Cubs, in their moves so far this year, appear for the first time in my lifetime, to be truly rebuilding. Shedding of high priced contracts and stocking up on prospects has been the theme that Jed and Theo have laid out to everyone. This is a team that is looking to make a splash in 2 years, not now.

Second, every statement out of the mouths of the Cubs management in regards to Fielder has been that the team doesn't have much interest in the 1st baseman. Hoyer said that the winter meetings that the Cubs interest in Fielder was overstated. Just this past week, Dale Sveum said that the team had not talked to the big 1st baseman. At this point, I'd have to take their word for it. We Cubs fans don't quite know exactly how the new Cubs front office strategically handles negotiations like this. It could be a their way of trying to drive down the cost to them if they actually want Fielder, but we don't know that this is how they'd want to do this.

Third, the vastly conflicting reports tells me that there are at least two different sources leaking information. One of these sources in lying. For what purpose would that source lie? Simply, to gain some sort of advantage. For the Cubs to be leaking a lie that they were not interested doesn't give them much of any advantage other than what I mentioned in the previous point, but we don't know if that is how the Cubs work. Scott Boras leaking a lie that the Cubs are very interested is of great advantage to him as it gets the teams that actually are interested (the Mariners, Nationals and Orioles) to believe they need to boost their offers for Fielder.

Fourth, Scott Boras has done this before. See the beginning of this post.

And finally, the 2011 draft. More specifically Dan Vogelbach. The Cubs drafted, in the second round of the 20122 draft, a player that some people consider the next Prince Fielder. He might still be 3 to 5 years off, but if this kid does work out, when he's ready to be a big leaguer, he'll be stuck behind a big fat Prince Fielder 8 year contract. We all know that prospects only work a small percentage of the time, but it seems like it would be weird for the Cubs to sign a player to a huge contract when they potentially have someone within their own system that would provide the same abilities. The Cubs want to develop players from within, so I would expect them to try to do everything they can to develop Vogelbach for a relatively cheap price as opposed to signing Fielder for the GDP of a small country.


In the end, I expect the Cubs to actually go after a different Scott Boras client...Carlos Peñ play first base. Yes, Peña's batting average continues to be under .230, but he did draw a ton of walks, saw a lot of pitches in each at-bat, and after a slow start, hit a good number of homers last year. On top of that, he was very good at first base (better than I expected), which was saying something considering that every other throw from Starlin Castro was in the dirt.

Peña is exactly what Theo Epstein said he was looking for...good defensively and a hitter that grinds out every at bat.

As a stop gap until someone else is developed, a two year deal for Peña at $24 million doesn't seem like too bad of an option.