The Rangers signing of Yu Darvish appears to take them out of the running for Prince Fielder, but then where exactly does the hefty slugger end up now?
The Rangers signed the Japanese ace to a six-year, $60 million contract on Wednesday -- in addition to a massive $51.7 million posting fee -- which ultimately makes it unlikely for the former Milwaukee Brewers slugger to end up in Texas, according to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.
After going through this process, I'm intimately familiar with our budget, Daniels told MLB.com. It's very unlikely.
I don't expect we'll do anything really big the rest of the winter. But we'll get the next few days under our belt, welcome Yu to Texas and then take a step back and look at things.
The Rangers could still end up signing Fielder -- FoxSports.com's Jon Morosi tweeted that rivals believe the team is playing coy with its interest in the slugger -- but it appears more likely that he'll land elsewhere. Even if the Rangers are playing coy, signing Fielder could complicate negotiations with former AL MVP Josh Hamilton on a long-term extension.
Fielder, who hit 38 home runs and batted in 120 RBIs last year, is expected to command up to $200 million in free agency. A massive payday like that would likely exclude the majority of teams in baseball, but a few clubs have big enough checkbooks to pursue him.
The two most likely landing spots for Fielder at this point are the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. The two NL teams both have money to spend and could use a marquee slugger like Fielder.
The Nationals showed a willingness to spend a lot of money when they swiped Jayson Werth from the Philadelphia Phillies, but haven't gotten the best return on their hefty seven-year, $126 million investment.
But as Sporting News noted on Thursday, the Nationals are currently in negotiations with MASN for their local television deal and could get a boost in the process if they landed a big name like Fielder. They could easily pair the 27-year old with an already impressive young nucleus of Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, and Stephen Strasburg to boost game attendance and television ratings. The Nationals are certainly interested in Fielder and have had recent success dealing with agent Scott Boras, but appear unwilling to spend more than $160-170 million on him.
The other main contender, the Cubs, seems to always be in the running for a major player. The team has a good amount of money to spend and new team executive Theo Epstein was more than willing to spend boatloads of cash when he was in Boston. Some have speculated that the Cubs' trade for Anthony Rizzo could knock them out of contention for Fielder, but the Cubbies need way more than Rizzo to compete in the NL.
In addition to the Cubs and Nationals, the Seattle Mariners are also considered to be a darkhorse contender. The Mariners recently acquired Jesus Montero from the Yankees to bolster their offensive output, but could still use a lot more firepower to keep up with its divisional rival, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels made the move of the off-season by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract - making it important for the Mariners to not fall too far off the pace.
The odds-on favorite to land Fielder is most likely the Nationals at this point, but don't be surprised to see him land with any of the other major contenders. The options are clearly dwindling for the best free agent available, but some team will gladly scoop him up eventually.