If the Orioles wind up shocking the baseball world and signing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder this winter, I would have no problem getting on board with that.
He would give the team a feared middle-of-the-order slugger who, at 27, could be heading into the best years of his baseball life. People always question his weight, but the guy has played 157 games or more for six straight years. He would provide the team with some needed star power. Since their first-round draft pick is protected, the Orioles would not lose the pick if they sign a Type A free agent such as Fielder.
The arguments for pursuing Fielder are vast. But while the O’s finished 14th in the majors this year in runs scored they were 30th and last in team ERA and quality starts.
They desperately need to add pitching. How to get it is the question. There are not many solid free agent options, although C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson are out there. Yu Darvish may be posted by his team in Japan.
Anytime anyone suggests going after Fielder may not be the O’s best play, someone invariably responds with, “Of course, why would the Orioles need a player like that?”
Look, it is not about Fielder’s talents. Of course, the Orioles could use a player like that. It’s about the price tag and what handing someone perhaps $25 million per year for six or more years could mean to future payroll flexibility and player acquisitions. The Orioles have many needs and putting that much toward one player could be an issue if they will be limited in other moves later because of it.
Of course, this all assumes Fielder would even give Baltimore a look. All players like clubs chasing them; it helps them get the best contract possible to have many suitors. But would Fielder truly have interest in being an Oriole, even if the price is right? I have serious doubts about that.
As free agency gets set to begin, I prep myself for the rumors and stories linking the Orioles to just about anyone with a pulse. I look forward to the 20-page thread on Orioles Hangout when someone writes that they were sure they saw Fielder and Buck Showalter having dinner at a local restaurant. I look forward to a mountain of wrong information, off-base rumors and much angst from fans whenever any free agent signs with anyone not named the Orioles.
What I really hope happens is that the Orioles’ pitching staff gets better through free agency or trades. Without fixing the pitching, the rest won’t count for much. The Orioles cannot go into the 2012 season with the lack of starting pitching depth they entered 2011 with. When the young pitchers struggled and/or got hurt, it blew up in their faces. Can’t have that happen again.
I just have a hard time believing the Orioles are any more than a real long shot to get Fielder. That won’t stop the rumor mill or message boards from blowing up every time he is linked to the Orioles in any way by any national media member.
But remember this: At each of his previous managing stops, Buck Showalter’s clubs added a key free agent pitcher between his first and second seasons.
He added Randy Johnson to the 1999 Diamondbacks, Jimmy Key to the 1993 Yankees and Kenny Rogers to the 2004 Rangers. Showalter has talked so much about the need to improve the pitching that if the Orioles spend big this winter, I am guessing it is more likely to be on a pitcher.
The Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”
A lot of fans will want the O’s to get Fielder. What they really need is pitching.