If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do based on what we have learned. Think of RI as “Tampa Bay Rays 101.”
However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans. Looking back at last year’s 12 Days of Raysmas, we see that many of our wishes came true. Many did not. If we can get a couple of more this year, the Rays might just win it all.
Without further ado…
On the third day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, A THREE-YEAR CONTRACT FOR PRINCE FIELDER…
Prince Fielder is the best bat still on the free agent market. But while the slugger entered the off-season looking for a $200 million contract, interest in Fielder has been luke-warm at best. And that interest is only coming from a handful of teams that had losing records in 2011.
As a result, some now believe Fielder is willing to accept a 3-year, ~$78 million contract. That would give Fielder a higher average annual salary than Albert Pujols. Also, Fielder would become a free agent again at age 30.
If Fielder is willing to accept a 3-year deal, there is no reason why the Rays shouldn’t try to sign him.
The Rays can trade James Shields and sign Fielder at $25-26 million per season, and the 2012 payroll would still only be ~$70 million, which is about what it was in 2010. And all of a sudden, the Rays go from a playoff contender, to one of 3-4 World Series favorites.
The danger in signing a guy like Fielder is years 5-10 on a 10-year deal. There is very little risk in the first 3-4 years. According to Fangraphs.com, Fielder was a 5.5 WAR player last year, worth $24.6 million. And at age 28 (in 2012), Fielder’s best years might still be ahead of him.
Now, before you guys get too excited, there are some downsides to this.We are talking about the Rays investing more than one-third of their payroll in one player. While the chances of something bad happening to a lumbering slugger are slim, it is possible. And if Fielder goes down, that is a lot of money tied up in dead weight (pun intended).
Also, we don’t know if Fielder is willing to accept a three-year deal. This is just speculation on the part of “several GMs.” But it does make sense. And, if it is true, and if the Rays are indeed in play, so are a lot of other teams. And if other teams are suddenly involved, the price goes up. Maybe not in terms of annual salary, but maybe a team offers a fourth year. And the longer the contract, the less likely the Rays will want to make the commitment.
Hey, this is probably not going to happen. The Rays blueprint has been successful, and it specifically says to not spend a lot of money for home runs (there is very little “value” in buying home runs). But if Fielder is willing to accept a 3-year deal, and if the Rays can afford a $70 million payroll, there is no reason why the Rays shouldn’t at least make a phone call to Scott Boras.