Prince Fielder is still available on the free agent market, but the number of teams interested in the prized slugger is dwindling.
Nearly every big high-payroll team won't be making a play on the first baseman for a variety of reasons. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies are all set at first base, and probably don't want to take on more salary for non-pitchers.
The Los Angeles Angels landed first baseman Albert Pujols, even though they may not have really needed him. The Los Angeles Dodgers spent their offseason chasing journeymen for short-term deals, as the club lowered their payroll with a new owner expected to take over in the coming months.
The financially troubled New York Mets lost Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins, and have been basically non-existent in free-agent discussions this winter.
The Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have stars at first base, and don't have interest in taking on a significant payroll increase.
Some clubs have been keen on adding Fielder over the past month, but have recently backed out. The Brewers won't be re-signing their star clean-up hitter after adding Aramis Ramirez this week, according to Brewers' general manager Doug Melvin.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous has stated that the Blue Jays won't offer a contract beyond five years for Fielder, and that's exactly what Fielder wants. Fielder's agent Scott Boras expects a deal that will be in the neighborhood of six-to-10 years, and over $20 million a season.
Though a club can swoop out of nowhere and make a bid on Fielder, the number of candidates appears to have dipped down to three.
The Cubs might be the most logical choice. New general manager Theo Epstein is looking to making a splash at his new job, and he may have a bargain in Fielder considering the shortage of bidders. Though Epstein could be hesitant to give a long-term deal to Fielder, signing the slugger might be too good to pass up. With Ramirez gone, the Cubs need to make up for the loss of power production, and the Cubs have a hole at first base. By adding Fielder, the Cubs could immediately vault to being favorites in the NL Central with the Cards losing Pujols, and the Brewers losing one of their greatest sluggers in their history.
The other two candidates come out of the American League West, as the Angels look like the clear favorites to win the division. Fresh off their second-straight trip to the World Series, the Rangers may need to think big and land a superstar bat after losing starter C.J. Wilson to the Angels. Adding Fielder might be worth the investment as the Rangers may need to protect themselves from the possibility that catcher Mike Napoli will come down to earth after a career season in 2011. Adding Fielder would pave the way to trading first baseman Mitch Moreland for a pitcher. The Rangers have to think beyond next season, as the Angels might be strong for several seasons.
If the Rangers decide to pump money into pitching instead of going big and getting Fielder, the Seattle Mariners might move into the lead to land the slugger. The Mariners desperately need power, and could use an injection of life into the organization. Fielder is not only a great power hitter, but also a big personality, which is important for a team that may have trouble marketing their current roster. Should Fielder get a long-term deal, he would probably like to be in the American League where he can have the designated hitter role. Though Fielder would like more protection in the lineup than he would have next season in Seattle, he also wants a big contract, and the Mariners are an organization that could give it to him.
Let the three-team race begin.