Prince Fielder Likely Will Be Available in Offseason, But Is He a Long-Term Superstar?

Prince Fielder Likely Will Be Available in Offseason, But Is He a Long-Term Superstar? With the likes of Julio Lugo, Billy Wagner and Alex Gonzalez off the books after 2010, the Red Sox will have a good amount of money to play with, post "bridge year."

Mike Lowell's $12 million will be off the books. David Ortiz's $12.5 million could be as well, if the team doesn't pick up his option. Adrian Beltre is going to want more than his $5 million player option, and Victor Martinez looks to be a free agent as well, making another $8 million potentially available. All, though, could be re-signed.

Basically, the Sox are looking at over $50 million worth of decisions.

Many of those decisions are going to have to be made at the position of designated hitter and first base, where Lowell, Ortiz and Martinez have seen time.

Prince Fielder has been at the top of the wish list for many in Red Sox nation, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that he will be very available this coming offseason.

Scott Boras, Prince's agent, has acted as a double-edged sword in terms of Boston's potential acquisition of Fielder. On one hand, his termination of negotiations with the Brewers after they offered Prince only $100 million has pretty much ensured that he will be on his way out of Milwaukee. On the other hand, he is demanding approximately double that number, and thinks Prince deserves as much as another of his clients, Mark Teixeira.

Tex signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees before the 2009 season, and proved to be a major contributor on the way to their World Series title.

But, first, the obvious question: Does Prince Fielder look like a guy to whom you want to give an eight-year deal? 

He would be 34 by the end of the 2018 season, an age where big-bodied sluggers have a way of declining statistically. The player he would hypothetically replace, David Ortiz (34), is perhaps the most obvious example of such. Frank Thomas lost his batting average once he hit his 30s, and father Cecil Fielder lost his power. Albert Belle couldn't stay in the majors past 33. Mo Vaughn's OPS peaked at age 28, about what you can expect for a big slugger.

Considering that Billy Beane called Fielder the only guy too physically unfit to play for the Oakland A's in "Moneyball," it's hard to imagine Fielder bucking the trend. He's already hitting for his lowest batting average ever in 2010, increasing his strikeout percentage for the fourth season in a row, and posting his lowest slugging percentage since his first full season. Home runs are down, too.

It's also hard to believe that switching from the NL Central, arguably the division with the worst pitching in baseball, to the AL East would help his production.

Still, Fielder's personality fits the mold of Manny Ramirez and Big Papi. He is jovial, outspoken and has a dynamism and swagger that is engaging for fans. It has been argued that that is exactly what the Red Sox need, and there aren't that many guys like that out there.

From a baseball standpoint, Fielder DH-ing would likely mean the end of the line for Ortiz on the Sox, and with Jarrod Saltalamacchia lurking in the minors, it may mean the same thing for Martinez, too.

The Sox would likely have to pay more to sign Fielder to a shorter deal, something like six years, $150 million, but that would still leave the team with money to consider re-signing Beltre with, in addition to bolstering the bullpen, which currently consists of less than 10 percent of the Sox' payroll.

Prince Fielder certainly could help the Sox, though he's far from a sure thing — particularly for the extreme long-term deal that he may be looking for. Exciting as he may be, he should not be considered the solitary aspiration for the 2011 offseason.

What may be most pivotal in 2011 isn't who is acquired in between now and then, it will be staying healthy for the duration of the year. Given how luck has a way of evening itself out, Boston can certainly expect major upgrades in that department.

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