|If the Rangers do land Prince Fielder, they will likely look to move Mitch Moreland. (Getty Images)|
The early word was that lone remaining free-agent superstar Prince Fielder would shoot for a "Mark Teixeira contract," meaning $180 million over eight years. Some gasped at that. Then, most figured he would try for $200 million over eight. Why not? That's a Ryan Howard salary extended by three years. But now the goal seems clear. One GM who has some interest in Fielder said, "Isn't it obvious?"
Well, yes, Fielder is likely shoot for a deal in the range of $254 million, or at least approaching it. Albert Pujols got $254 million from the Angels after responding quickly to their offer with a day deadline attached to it. That was $2 million more than the then-record $252 million deal Alex Rodriguez got at that very same venue 11 years earlier. The elements are ripe for a repeat, it seems.
But where might Fielder get that kind of coin? Here are the contenders (with odds):
1. Rangers: They aren't even completely in the game yet, but if the Rangers get in, look out. They have a superb team, ridiculous lineup and a great hitters park, all attributes that could lure Fielder. But will they play for Prince? Rangers people have been suggesting all along that their focus is pitching and trades, but that may just be because they haven't yet gotten approval from upper management to offer what it would take. Club president Nolan Ryan, who never wanted to go beyond five years for Cliff Lee, hasn't seemed the type to consider deals of eight years or longer. But he did go big last year with a late-in-the-winter five-year, $80 million deal for third baseman Adrian Beltre, so there is precedent for a surprise. The lineup is already arguably the best in baseball, but first baseman Mitch Moreland didn't exactly distinguish himself in the playoffs and has a wrist injury to boot. There is word the Rangers have talked about trades for Moreland, giving rise to more rumors. While this team is excellent as is, the Rangers might want to counter the Angels, who stole ex-Texas ace C.J. Wilson and now have four starters who are more accomplished and arguably better than any of the Rangers' starters. The way to combat that is with bats. Well, here's one. Odds: 3-1
2. Cubs: Fielder is exactly the kind of free agent new execs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would want in that he is only 27 and carries the potential to be a cleanup man and foundation player for years to come. Fielder loves hitting in Wrigley Field, which can't hurt, and of course, everyone loves Chicago. The Cubs aren't exactly poor, either. They just paid $18.5 million for Epstein. Odds: 4-1
3. Mariners: GM Jack Zduriencik is the man who drafted Fielder for the Brewers, and he is known to remain a great admirer. Early word was Seattle only had a few million dollars to spend, but it's apparent they are making an exception here. Seattle's a tough place to hit, and it's not too close to Fielder's Orlando home. But they need the offense, they lose marquee man Ichiro Suzuki in a year and they love this guy. All in. Odds: 5-1
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4. Blue Jays: Everyone says they have lots of loot to spend. Upper management isn't sending signals that they are going to make this kind of purchase (though they are believed to have made a strong play for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish), but they are said to be thinking long and hard about Fielder. The combo with Jose Bautista is enticing. Odds: 8-1
5. Nationals: They've gone for the home run before, and no one would be shocked if they made a late play here. With Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche on the roster, it isn't the best fit. But they lost out on Mark Buehrle, and GM Mike Rizzo has struck before. Odds: 12-1
6. Orioles: New GM Dan Duquette likes the big star (see Manny Ramirez) and so does owner Peter Angelos (see the 1990s). But their real need is pitching. Odds: 15-1
7. Marlins: President David Samson said aloud Fielder doesn't fit, though it's curious club owner Jeffrey Loria gave an answer that was a lot closer to "we'll see." They do have the money, whether you believe Pujols' camp, which suggested Miami offered him $272 million, or the Marlins, who said it was more like $220 million. He isn't the marketing godsend Pujols would be, but he would help them win. Combo with Mike Stanton would be downright scary. Odds: 20-1
8. Brewers: GM Doug Melvin concluded after signing Aramis Ramirez that the smallest market doesn't make sense for the best young free agent. Makes sense to me. Fielder offered to stay for $176 million over eight years two years ago. That's out now. Odds: 50-1
9. The field: Current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt could decide it wouldn't hurt the bids and might give him some hero points. The Yankees are showing no inclination to trade Jesus Montero and open up a DH spot. The Cardinals say they aren't going here for Pujols' replacement. Odds: 13-1
Around the majors
• The Nippon Ham Fighters are expected to accept what is believed to be a rather large posting bid for top right-handed pitcher Darvish. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (@DKnobler) reported the Fighters were "very excited" by the as-yet unreported number. It isn't known which team won the bid, but the Blue Jays were considered a favorite while the Rangers viewed as another contender. The Yankees, leery after bad experiences with Hideki Irabu and especially Kei Igawa, were believed to have made a relatively modest bid. The Cubs were also said by the Chicago Tribune to have made a bid.
• The Minnesota Twins have signed Josh Willingham to a 3-year deal worth $21 million. Minnesota had tried first to retain Michael Cuddyer, but he had better bids than their $25 million, three-year offer. Twins GM Terry Ryan hasn't ruled out signing both players, though another source familiar with the team's thinking said there currently isn't room in the budget for Cuddyer too.
• The Rockies are a leader for Cuddyer. They have sought a right-handed hitter who's great in the clubhouse since losing out last winter for Michael Young. The Mariners also are interested in Cuddyer, but it isn't easy to lure right-handed hitters to Safeco Field.
• The Red Sox still need a closer, though Mark Melancon, the hard-throwing pickup from Houston, is a solid candidate for the setup job. The Red Sox are saying they have little money after spending quite a bit last year (though no one will admit owner John Henry's Liverpool expenditures have affected the Red Sox, he did spend $176 million importing soccer players, led by Andy Carroll's $50 million deal). Nick Punto gives Dustin Pedroia a backup who's even scrappier than him.
• Phil Rogers (@ChiTribRogers) of the Chicago Tribune suggested that the Epstein-and-Hoyer-led Cubs are considering old Red Sox mainstays Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Varitek's time appears up in Boston after the Red Sox signed Kelly Shoppach. Wakefield might consider retirement if he doesn't get a reasonable offer.
• The A's have asked the Tigers for top pitching prospect Jacob Turner in a package for Gio Gonzalez, Knobler reported. He also said the A's asked the Marlins for Stanton. Can't imagine that went very far. Gonzalez is the most popular of many viable starters on the trade market.
• The White Sox asked for two among the Yankees' vaunted prospect trio of Montero, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances for John Danks. The Yankees might be willing to give one from the group. The sides are said not to be close, but it is early. Among the free agents, the Yankees seem to like Hiroki Kuroda best.
• The Rockies like Kuroda and Joe Saunders.
• The Blue Jays talked to the White Sox about Carlos Quentin, and according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star (@RGriffinStar), they also spoke about Danks and Gordon Beckham at the time they landed Sergio Santos.
• The Blue Jays joined the Rockies and Cardinals as pursuers of Carlos Beltran, reported Scott Miller (@ScottMCBSSports). Colorado sees him as the main alternative to Cuddyer.
• The Tigers' interest in Jimmy Rollins appears to have been exaggerated. They are a good stealth player, but so far they are not pursuing Rollins, the longtime Phillies star who remains in a negotiating dance with the Phillies. He wants five years while they want to give three (or three plus an option).
• Takashi Saito is a nice pickup for the Diamondbacks at $1.75 million. GM Kevin Towers has a fine track record with pitchers.
• Former Yankees No. 1 pick Andrew Brackman is going home with his one-year major-league deal with the Reds.
• The Astros, Rays and Mets are possibilities for Ivan Rodriguez.
• Houston isn't finding a great market for Wandy Rodriguez, whose contract calls for $34 million over three years if traded. That looks cheap compared to Buehrle's $58 million over four, but Rodriguez is viewed by some AL teams as too soft a tosser for their league.
• Ryan Braun shouldn't have his MVP removed for two reasons: 1. Nothing has been proved; 2. Barry Bonds still has four post-1998 MVPs on his mantle.
• McCourt was said by NBC in Los Angeles to be mulling a reversal of his decision to sell the team. MLB isn't worried, however. McCourt signed a document calling for his removal by April 30. He also needs to come up with $130 million by May 1 to pay ex-wife Jaime McCourt.
For more MLB news and rumors from Jon Heyman, follow @JonHeymanCBS .