Tag:Prince Fielder
Posted on: December 9, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 6:41 pm
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Best free agents left after winter meetings



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The winter meetings are over and some of the biggest names on the free-agent market are off the table, but that doesn't mean the hot stove has died out. So, the day after Albert Pujols and the Angels shocked the baseball world, here's a look at the top five position players and pitchers left on the market:

Postition players

Prince Fielder1. Prince Fielder -- The 27-year-old Fielder is the biggest fish left on the market, averaging more than 38 home runs in his six full seasons in the big leagues and posting a .929 career OPS. Whoever lands Fielder will get a shot to the lineup. The knock is Fielder's weight and the length of a contract.

Possible landing spots: Brewers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Mariners, Marlins

Carlos Beltran2. Carlos Beltran -- Beltran's been a bit of a forgotten name in all the winter meetings talk. Beltran will be 35 in April and just finished a seven-year deal with the Mets. After being limited by injuries in his last two seasons, Beltran had a bounce-back year, hitting .300/.385/.525 with 22 homers and 84 RBI and doing that in two home ballparks not known to be friendly to hitters, Citi Field and AT&T Park. He can still play center field, but is probably better suited on a corner.

Possible landing spots: Cardinals, Nationals, Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, Mariners, Cubs

Aramis Ramirez3. Aramis Ramirez -- Even though he has 14 years in the big leagues under his belt, Ramirez is just 33 and coming off a .306/.361/.510 season with 26 homers and 93 RBI. A two-time All-Star, he's by far the best third baseman on the market -- and it's not even close.

Possible landing spots: Brewers, Phillies, Marlins

Michael Cuddyer4. Michael Cuddyer -- Cuddyer will be 33 in March and can play both the corner outfield and infield spots, offering teams a versatile player. He hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 homers last season and hit 32 homers in 2009 before the Twins moved to spacious Target Field. The Twins have reportedly already offered him a three-year deal, as have the Rockies.

Possible landing spots: Rockies, Twins, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox

Jimmy Rollins5. Jimmy Rollins -- It seems odd to consider the 2007 MVP in anything but a Phillies uniform, but Pujols is now in California, so anything's possible. Rollins' offensive numbers have dropped off since his MVP season, but he still plays a premium position -- and one a couple of teams need to fill. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Rollins turned 33 last month. If he re-signs with the Phillies, it could be his last contract. Rollins is reportedly searching for a five-year contract, a tactic that may scare away every team other than the Phillies.

Possible landing spots: Phillies, Cardinals

Pitchers

Yu Darvish1. Yu Darvish -- The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander will reportedly be posted and has been seen as perhaps the best starter available. There's no shortage of teams that could be interested in Darvish, but the history of recent big-ticket Japanese pitchers could scare off some suitors and keep the posting fee lower than expected. Once his team in Japan, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighers, accept the posting, the winning team still has to negotiate with Darvish. The posting system, though, gives a chance for a surprise team to emerge the winner.

Possible landing spots: Rangers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Nationals, Royals

Hiroki Kuroda2. Hiroki Kuroda -- There's no question of how Kuroda will perform in the big leagues -- he's gone 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in four seasons with the Dodgers. Kuroda had a 13-16 record in 2011, despite putting up just a 3.07 ERA. He told the team he wouldn't give up his no-trade protection at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers have already found replacements for him in the rotation. He has one offer on the table already from the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but would make more money in the U.S.

Possible landing spots: Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, Carp

Edwin Jackson3. Edwin Jackson -- The fact that Jackson has already played for six different teams and he's just 28 may raise some flags, but he's also had six teams want him at some point and for good reason. Although Jackson has battled inconsistency, he's still had results at times. He was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA for the Cardinals and White Sox last season. He's not a No. 1, but he's younger than some of the other second-tier starters on the market, increasing his value.

Possible landing spots: Twins, Rangers, Yankees, Cubs, Royals, Nationals, Pirates, Rockies, Orioles

Ryan Madson4. Ryan Madson -- Even though there were reports the right-hander had agreed to return to the Phillies earlier this offseason, the team turned to Jonathan Papelbon instead. The Red Sox, who along with the Reds, are still searching for a closer could end up signing Madson and seem the best fit. In his firs tseason as the Phillies' closer, Madson recorded 32 saves, going 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA, striking out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Phillies

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero -- Like Madson, Cordero seems to be on the outside of the closer game of musical chairs. The Red Sox and Reds are the only team left looking for a closer. The Reds were interested in bringing back Cordero with a discount after declining their $12 million option on the 36-year-old right-hander. Cordero converted 37 saves last season and 150 in four years in Cincinnati.

Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Twins

Follow all the free agent moves with the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 5:43 pm
 

News, notes from final day of Winter Meetings

By Matt Snyder

MLB Winter Meetings
DALLAS -- Other than the two gigantic signings Thursday morning, the activity at the Winter Meetings has slowed to a crawl as everything wraps up. Still, there is never a complete void of buzz, so here are some of the latest news and notes from the media room, courtesy of CBSSports.com senior writers Scott Miller and Danny Knobler.

• The Marlins are going to be in on top remaining free agent Prince Fielder and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. One thing to keep in mind, the Marlins were ready to spend almost $100 million on C.J. Wilson, so there's no reason to believe they're done spending -- or at least trying to spend.

• One Nationals person said there's a "95 percent chance" prospect Bryce Harper opens the season with the big-league club.

• The Angels are not trading anyone. They're all in with what they have. They are expecting Kendrys Morales to start the season injured and Mark Trumbo can either play third base or be the designated hitter.

• The Reds are heavily pursuing starting pitching via trade, with their top targets being Jair Jurrjens and a few guys from the Rays' staff. No real progress was made during the meetings, however.

Also of note:

Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports the Rockies have become a serious suitor for free agent outfielder/corner infielder Michael Cuddyer. The Twins have reportedly offered Cuddyer three years and $25 million, but Renck says the Rockies are willing to go three years as well. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Angels swoop in, steal Marlins thunder -- for now



By Matt Snyder


DALLAS -- In one fell swoop, the Miami Marlins had their thunder stolen.

First, let's set the scene.

The annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings always come to a close on a Thursday. In most years, the hotel lobby is hopping like mad for Monday through Wednesday but is a veritable ghost town come post-lunch time Thursday. There's the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning, and by late afternoon most writers are either already home or preparing to fly out.

At about 7 a.m. Thursday morning, the Marlins were the huge story of the Winter Meetings. Not only had they landed a trio of All-Stars in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell -- committing $191 million in future payroll to the three -- but they were also attached to rumors on Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and sometimes even Prince Fielder throughout the week. When Marlins' brass Jeffrey Loria, Larry Beinfest and David Samson walked through the lobby earlier in the week, a flock of reporters and cameramen were following them like paparazzi clings to Kim Kardashian or Brad Pitt. New manager Ozzie Guillen had a Joker-like permanent smile on his face. The Marlins were, as one writer remarked on Twitter, the "belles of the ball."

MLB Winter Meetings
Thursday morning, however, the Angels went out and signed the biggest name in baseball: Albert Pujols. Then, within minutes, they added All-Star starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. New Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto held a press conference to announce both signings and field questions.

And when everyone leaves the meetings for good, the top team that will stick out in everyone's mind is the Los Angeles Angels, not the Miami Marlins.

This was not what owner Jeffrey Loria wanted. This was supposed to be the Marlins' time. They are moving into a new stadium that they'd waited on for years. They have a new name and new uniforms. They want people to buy them as legitimate contenders and take them seriously. They very well could be contenders and might be transforming into a legitimate large-market team, but the thunder of the three signings has been completely stolen by the already-large-market Angels swooping in and getting a bigger star position player and a better starting pitcher than the Marlins landed.

Will this anger the Marlins, causing them to go hard after Prince Fielder -- a player most reported was not on their radar at this time Wednesday? It's hard to tell.

But for now, the Marlins get second billing at these Winter Meetings. The Angels were the top dog.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:38 pm
 

How will Texas respond to Angels' challenge?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

A year ago the Rangers were crushed when Cliff Lee went to Philadelphia. This year they expected to lose C.J. Wilson, but the difference is the landing spot. Lee went to the National League, Wilson is staying in the American League West -- and joining Albert Pujols in Anaheim.

The Rangers will now step back and reassess where they stand in regards to their divisional rival.

"Our job just got more challenging," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler. "We just saw him seven games and I can't say we figured him out."

The question now is whether the Rangers try to counter with big moves of their own. It's still possible, despite the denials of team president Nolan Ryan, that the team goes after Prince Fielder. Ryan says the team is comfortable with Mitch Moreland at first base, but he said the same last year about Michael Young and third base before signing Adrian Beltre.

MLB Winter Meetings

And then there's the rotation. As it stands now, the Rangers rotation is Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz. That's not bad, but it's not the Angels' rotation.

Feliz -- like Wilson and Ogando before him -- is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation. It's worked well enough before for the Rangers, so this could work. Feliz came up in the minors as a starter, starting 27 games in 2008 and 13 in 2009, the last time he started. The Rangers also signed Joe Nathan to make sure they had an experienced closer to fill his shoes.

Another possibility is moving Scott Feldman back to the rotation. The 28-year-old right-hander started two games in 2011 and has 80 career starts under his belt. Feldman won 17 games in 2009 and is 29-28 with a 4.69 ERA in his career as a starter, striking out 4.8 batters per nine innings, down from the 5.6 strikeouts per nine as a reliever.

Texas, though, could very well go outside of their organization to bolster their staff. General manager Jon Daniels scouted Yu Darvish in person this past season and the team has had success in Japan before with Lewis. Darvish, though, must go through the posting system, which is hardly a sure thing on a blind bid for the posting fee.

Another possibility is Matt Garza. The Cubs have let it be known they are open to trading anyone -- including the 28-year-old right-hander is arbitration-eligible and will be a free agent after the 2013 season. Garza went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in his first year in Chicago. The Rangers are talking to the Cubs about a deal for Garza, who would help their rotation.

Roy Oswalt is also a free agent and could be a fallback option.

The Angels shocked the baseball world on Thursday, the Rangers were among them. But the Rangers are unlikely to sit still and will certainly be worth watching going forward.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:06 am
 

What's next for the Cardinals?



By Matt Snyder


DALLAS -- A Cardinals legend is leaving St. Louis and headed to Los Angeles, as Albert Pujols has signed with the Angels. For many, the main question here is, where do the Cardinals go from here?

There are several moving parts. Let's sort through them.

• As far as first base, the Cardinals already had a backup plan. Lance Berkman can shift right back to first, where he's best suited defensively anyway. This eliminates an awful defensive hole in the outfield, though it is obviously a defensive downgrade at first base, as Pujols is one of the best in the game. It was very unlikely the Cardinals would pursue Prince Fielder or even a lesser free agent first baseman like Carlos Pena before we knew about the Allen Craig injury. With the injury, do the Cardinals get hasty and go large after Fielder? It doesn't seem like a good bet, but we do know the Cardinals had a truckload of money they were about to spend and now haven't been able to do so. So feel free to speculate away.

MLB Winter Meetings
• It's entirely possible this changes the landscape for free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Multiple reports had Rollins close to signing with the Phillies, but instead his agent didn't meet with them Wednesday night. Interestingly enough, Rollins' agent is Dan Lozano. Yes, the same Dan Lozano who represents Pujols. And the Cardinals have a need at shortstop ... and for a leadoff hitter. They were said to be interested in Rollins a bit ago, but obviously all efforts were focused on Pujols until Thursday morning. He's gone now, though, so we may very well see Rollins get a nice offer from the Cardinals. Maybe even a panic-type deal. There is still a feeling Rollins is headed back to Philly, but the Pujols signing very much affects the market for the All-Star shortstop.

• In the outfield, the Cardinals now have a predicament. They were set to go with Berkman, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday. If Pujols left, Berkman would slide to first base and Craig would become the everyday right fielder. The problem is, Craig is likely out until May. And you never know how players will bounce back from knee surgeries. What if there are setbacks? So this poses a big problem. It looks like it's Skip Schumaker in right, for now, and there isn't really much better the Cardinals can do -- assuming their free agent focus turns to Rollins, which I fully expect.

• One last thing, we have to remember the Cardinals are getting back a healthy Adam Wainwright. They won the World Series last season without their ace. And now he's back. So the starting pitching will be improved.

And it better be, because the Cardinals just lost the best player of the last decade.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Milwaukee Brewers

Prince Fielder

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

Last offseason the Brewers made two huge moves that powered them to a National League Central title -- trading for Zack Greinke from the Royals and Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays. One look at roster of players the Brewers have drafted and signed out of Latin America tell you exactly why the Brewers had to reach outside the organization for starting pitching. While the team has consistently developed position players, its track record with pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- is not so good. So, check out one of the best lineups in this exercise, and worst pitching staffs.

Lineup

1. Corey Hart, RF
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
3. Prince Fielder, 1B
4. Ryan Braun, LF
5. Rickie Weeks, 2B
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Lorenzo Cain, CF
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Starting Rotation

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Manny Parra
3. Dana Eveland
4. Mark Rogers
5. Tim Dillard

Bullpen

Closer - Mike Adams
Set up - Craig Breslow, Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Braddock, Tom Wilhelmsen, Michael Fiers, Mike McClendon

Notable Bench Players

The bench actually has a nice mixture of bats -- Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, along with two outstanding defensive replacements in Alcides Escobar in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield. There's also a super-utility guy in Bill Hall.

What's Good?

The lineup is ridiculous. It's like the team's lineup from this year, but better. Lawrie at third base adds serious pop, while Hardy is an upgrade at shortstop (and really, who isn't an upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt?) The core of the lineup is about the same, and shows the team knows how to spot bats that will play in the big leagues. This lineup is certainly one a manager would love to pencil in every, single day.

What's Not?

That pitching staff is ridiculous -- and not in a good way. Yovani Gallardo is a really good pitcher, but the rest ... woof. The fourth starter (Rogers) has 10 innings in the big leagues. The back of the bullpen with Adams, Breslow and Jeffress, well, it's better than the rest of the bullpen. Really, this is all a mess. There's no way this team could compete with this pitching staff. Just brutal.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, the pitching staff ensures this team wouldn't win the division or even sniff the playoffs. The staff is so bad, that even with all the runs they put up, there's likely no way this team wins 70 games. The Brewers tried to slug their way to titles in the past and it was proven it doesn't work. In the end, it's why the Brewers had to gut their minor league system to get Greinke, and trade away an impact bat to get Marcum -- pitching is vital to the success of a baseball team and this hypothetic team has next to none.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 8:21 pm
 

MLB Winter Meetings rumors: Monday

By Matt Snyder

Hot Stove Season
DALLAS -- We're live from the media room, lobby or anywhere else in the Dallas Hilton for Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. Tons of rumors are going to be circulating throughout the meetings for the next four days, so we'll keep this as a landing spot for anything and everything. Check back for updates all day Monday. We'll timestamp updates made after the initial post.

Pujols

CBSSports.com's Scott Miller writes that the Cardinals are making every effort to get free agent superstar Albert Pujols signed.

Fielder

Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com blogged last night that the Brewers were finally feeling a bit optimistic their chances to keep free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. The Nationals are one name that have been thrown into Fielder rumors, but the Washington beat writers -- including MLB.com's Bill Ladson -- are reporting that Fielder is not a target. The Nats are reportedly content to use Adam LaRoche at first base and Mike Morse in left field, with Morse a backup option at first.

12:50 p.m. ET: MASN.com reports that the Orioles do have interest in Fielder, but general manager Dan Duquette doesn't want fans to get their hopes up just yet.

1:00 p.m. ET: Jon Heyman adds that the O's interest in Fielder is owner Peter Angelos' "secret mandate."

2:03 p.m. ET: Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com reports the interest in Fielder is not heavy and his name didn't even come up during the Orioles' morning briefing.

Phillies, Rollins, Ramirez, Polanco

• While the Phillies have not rushed to sign starting pitcher Cole Hamels to a contract extension -- he's due to be a free agent after the 2012 season -- there is a strong expectation from both sides that a deal gets done eventually, reports Knobler.

• The Phillies are strong players for free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, reports Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post. MLB.com's Todd Zolecki confirmed the interest, but surmises Ramirez is merely a backup plan in case the Phillies can't retain shortstop Jimmy Rollins. On Rollins, his options could be dwindling. ESPN.com's Buster Olney is reporting that the Phillies' only competition for Rollins are Milwaukee and St. Louis.

1:05 p.m. ET: Knobler reports the Brewers are in on everyone at shortstop and third base, but not far along in negotiations.

12:57 p.m. ET: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the Phillies are actively shopping third baseman Placido Polanco. Dealing him would free up a spot for Ramirez.

2:35 p.m. ET: Rollins' agent -- Dan Lozano -- met with Phillies officials last night and talks "did not go well at all," according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The report indicates Rollins and Lozano are not backing down from the intially requested five-year contract.

3:18 p.m. ET: Miller reports the Phillies are "definitely" in on Ramirez, but that the Angels (and "others") are also very interested.

5:38 p.m. ET: General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said "honestly, there is no rush to do anything," on the Rollins situation (Matt Gelb).

6:23 p.m. ET: Ramirez wants to play for a winner and has interest from the Phillies, Brewers and Angels, tweets Knobler, but nothing is close yet. The Tigers haven't shown serious interest in Ramirez, either, and probably won't at all, Knobler also notes.

Royals, Angels, Gio Gonzalez

• While they are "downplaying it," the Royals would trade closer Joakim Soria for starting pitching help, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. This makes sense after the signing of Jonathan Broxton, and we also know the Royals badly wanted to upgrade their rotation. Sherman also notes the Royals would talk about Greg Holland, who posted a 1.80 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings last year.

2:05 p.m. ET: Heyman reports Gio Gonzalez is one target of the Royals, also noting that highly-touted Royals prospect Wil Meyers is quite popular among opposing teams.

2:50 p.m. ET: Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com says that an executive from an "AL West rival" of the A's believes Gonzalez will be traded.

2:10 p.m. ET: Perhaps the Angels are a match with the Royals? Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports the Angels are seeking help in the back-end of the bullpen, "specifically [an] experienced closer."

7:25 p.m. ET: Scott Miller confirms the report that the Royals like Gonzalez. Miller also learned the Royals are looking for a utility infielder who can play both second and third base.

Willingham

• Nine teams have called on free agent outfielder Josh Willingham, including the Twins, Red Sox, Indians and Reds, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

4:26 p.m. ET: The Rays are "making a serious run" at Willingham, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. Rosenthal tweets that the Rays aren't close, but are one of the three to four finalists to land Willingham.

Indians

1:04 p.m. ET: The Indians are in on every free agent first baseman other than Fielder and Pujols, reports Heyman, who specifically named Casey Kotchman as being on the Cleveland radar.

Buehrle

2:01 p.m. ET: Coveted free agent starting pitcher Mark Buehrle has been connected to over a dozen suitors. Knobler reports that the left-hander has not eliminated any teams from consideration and is not close to a decision.

4:51 p.m. ET: Rosenthal reports that the Nationals, Marlins, Rangers and Twins are after Buehrle, but that the Twins offer isn't as strong as the others.

Braves

2:06 p.m. ET: Sherman reports that the Braves are one of the teams waiting for free agents Buehrle and C.J. Wilson to sign -- because the Braves will then see if the trade interest in Jair Jurrjens picks up.

Twins, Capps, Rangers, David Murphy

2:42 p.m. ET: The Twins have asked the Rangers about the availability of David Murphy, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Rosenthal countered by saying the Rangers are "reluctant to compromise outfield depth."

6:57 p.m. ET: The Twins have re-signed Matt Capps. Full story.

Dodgers, Harang, Hairston

3:29 p.m. ET: The Dodgers are making progress on signing free agent starting pitcher Aaron Harang. Full story.

6:06 p.m. ET: The Dodgers have signed Jerry Hairston. Full story.

Wilson

4:45 p.m. ET: C.J. Wilson has a six-year offer from a team other than the Rangers, reports Jeff Wilson. MLB Trade Rumors notes the Rangers, Angels, Nationals, Marlins and that dreaded "mystery team" are currently in the mix for Wilson's services. If he comes off the market, expect the heat to increase on the already-beloved Mark Buehrle. The two are easily the best left-handed starters out there.

Dotel

6:58 p.m. ET: The teams interested in relief pitcher Octavio Dotel are the Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Tigers and Mets, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

Astros

7:23 p.m. ET: The Astros are looking to trade veterans Brett Myers and Carlos Lee. Scott Miller has the full story.

Giants

7:26 p.m. ET: Miller has learned the Giants are willing to trade infielder Jeff Keppinger, outfielder Andres Torres and relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez.

Hat-tip: MLB Trade Rumors

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Posted on: November 29, 2011 9:49 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Report: Cubs after Pujols, Fielder due to CBA



By Matt Snyder


Once thought to be more of a longshot to get in the bidding on any significant free agent signings, the Cubs are now in on the Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sweepstakes, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

One of the reasons it was widely thought the Cubs weren't going to go major on the free agent market is because the team isn't exactly just one or two players away from a World Series. One of the major tasks at hand for new president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer is building a strong, youthful foundation, and that means patience.

Rumor Mill
But, according to Rosenthal, the new collective bargaining agreement changed everything. As Danny Knobler specifically noted last week, the new rules on draft and international spending make it much harder for teams (including the Cubs) to heavily build through the draft and international free agency. Factor in that there aren't many big bats hitting the free agent market in the next few years, and it makes sense that the Cubs would change course and start seriously considering either Pujols or Fielder as a franchise centerpiece.

The report also notes the Cubs prefer Pujols, despite being several years older, because he's a more well-rounded player -- factoring in defense and baserunning.

Even if the Cubs don't sign either player, their involvement in any bidding is a huge deal. With the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies out, the Cubs can likely outpay any other team, if they so choose. Yes, there are already some big contracts on the books, but more than $50 million has dropped off the Cubs' player payroll from last season and only Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano are signed through 2013. Basically, if the Cubs want, they can blow everyone else out of the water. If not, they've at least driven up the price for other teams.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com