Dreaming About Prince in Texas

The two teams most often connected to free agent slugger Prince Fielder are the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers. The Nationals are largely considered the leader in the clubhouse for the Fielder sweepstakes, though the Rangers reportedly met with Fielder and Scott Boras over the weekend for preliminary talks.

Signing Fielder to a long-term deal puts any organization into a precarious financial position. He is a legitimate +5 or +6 win player at this moment, but his defensive liabilities and his physical build have caused organizations to question whether that level of production will last over a five-plus year contract. Those concerns remain the primary reasons as to why the 27-year-old first baseman is still available.

Pushing aside those financial worries, though, and simply viewing baseball as athletic entertainment, Texas would perhaps be the most enthralling landing spot for Fielder this winter. The addition of his bat to the Rangers’ lineup would transform the second-best offense from 2011 (ranked by team wOBA) into a bona fide juggernaut next season.

First of all, Fielder would be leaving a relatively neutral park in Milwaukee to play in the most home run friendly baseball stadium in Major League Baseball in Arlington. Miller Park had the 11th-highest home run factor in the league last season at 1.062, while Rangers Ballpark in Arlington had a home run factor of 1.500. Fielder has five-consecutive seasons of 30+ home runs and a career .257 ISO. Theoretically, he would perform even better with the Rangers in their bandbox of a stadium.

Secondly, Fielder would replace the only below-average everyday player in the Rangers lineup, at least according to the 2011 numbers. Last year marked Mitch Moreland’s first full season in the big leagues. He started strong, hitting .300/.376/.513 through the month of May, but imploded throughout the remainder of the season and ended the season with only +0.4 WAR and a .317 wOBA, which is well below the American League average for first basemen in 2011 (.340).

With Moreland out of the lineup and Fielder replacing him at first base, the Texas Rangers would boast a scary-good batting order that features nine players that compiled wOBA numbers in 2011 that were above the American League average for their respective positions. The chart below illustrates that fact.

(click to enlarge)

Imagine having an eight-hitter (in this hypothetical batting order) who hit 29 home runs in 2011 and is one season removed from a +5 win season that saw him hit .318/.374/.576. Furthermore, imagine having a lineup that hit a combined 203 home runs last season. Outside of the Rangers themselves, only the New York Yankees hit more home runs as an entire team than those nine players who could potentially don Rangers uniforms next year.

Removing the rose-colored glasses for a moment, Prince Fielder does make more logistical sense in Texas than in Washington in some ways. He could move to DH with the Rangers after Michael Young becomes a free agent in 2014, rather than being forced into a roster situation in which he would continue to play terrible defense at first throughout his contract with the Nationals. Naturally, he becomes much less of a long-term risk if he has the DH position as a fall-back, though his offensive production would have to avoid serious regression going forward to still provide significant value as a DH.

Within the Rangers’ context, though, Fielder may not fit in the overall plans. The organization’s primary investment this offseason needs to be Yu Darvish to upgrade a starting rotation littered with question marks. Josh Hamilton is also seeking a long-term extension, and the payroll may not be flexible enough to accommodate significant contracts to both Hamilton and Fielder.

Thus, despite the fact that the Rangers continue to show interest in Fielder, the organization may not be able to perform the necessary financial gymnastics to get the job done.

But, man, Prince Fielder in a Rangers uniform next season would be a ton of fun to watch.



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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


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Hollinger
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Hollinger

Thats Craig Gentry, yo.

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