Once the 2011 season ended for the Dodgers, GM Ned Colletti was quoted saying, when addressing the Dodgers needs this offseason, was that he wanted to acquire a middle of the order impact bat this offseason to improve the Dodgers chances of winning in 2012. There are really only two "middle of the order impact bats" that come to mind, at least my mind, when reading that. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.
Seriously, the Dodgers COULD surprise everyone and sign Prince Fielder, or Albert Pujols, as ESPN's Buster Olney explained in his Friday morning blog post:
When the Texas Rangers were controlled by a bankruptcy court in the summer of 2010, Major League Baseball did a really smart thing -- it allowed the Rangers to make the biggest trade of the summer, for Cliff Lee, rather than tying their hands financially. The decision infuriated team executives, but in the big picture, Lee's presence made the Rangers a more attractive, more viable franchise, with a better chance for immediate success. And after the sale to the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan group, the Rangers would play in the World Series; little more than a year later, they are regarded as a growing power.
In light of that recent history, it will be interesting to see whether Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti gets the green light from Major League Baseball to go after one of the two biggest free agents in the market: Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. The next Dodger owners won't be in place until sometime next season, in all likelihood, too late to order the pursuit of Pujols or Fielder -- two players who, if added, would immediately alter the perception of the team as a rotting franchise.
Colletti already has big business on the docket -- he needs to sign Matt Kemp before the center fielder becomes a free agent next fall, and presumably will try to negotiate long-term deals with Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw as well. But if he wanted to go after either Pujols or Fielder, he would need a go-ahead from commissioner Bud Selig.
Once the McCourt mess is cleared off the decks, the Dodgers should be in play for franchise-changing players like Pujols or Fielder, and we'll see whether MLB wants that to happen.
Here is one Dodgers fan that hope MLB decides to allow that to happen. And if you haven't heard, Dodgers outfielder and future MVP, Matt Kemp, is already recruiting Fielder to consider signing with the Dodgers.
More on the Dodgers signing Fielder after the jump:
I ranked Prince Fielder as my 5th best fantasy first baseman in my early 2012 First Base Rankings, and here is what I wrote about him:
5. Prince Fielder, ?-Fielder's ranking may change depending on where he signs this offseason, but as many expected he had an on year in 2011. Fielder is notorious for having on years and off years, and 2011 was another on year, as he hit .299-.415-.566 with 38 HRs, 120 RBI and 95 runs scored. Here are Fielder's HR/ISO/SLG stats since 2006:
An obvious trend if there ever was one, so 2012 may be an off year for Fielder, but his off years are still decent as he has averaged 31 HRs and 89 RBI, while in his on years he has averaged 45 HRs and 127 RBI. I think he will fall somewhere in between in 2012.
Fielder's career averages are as follows: .292-.390-.540 with 38 HRs and 107 RBI. Compare that to James Loney's career averages: .288-.345-.432 with 12 HRs and 80 RBI. Not much to discuss here.
Signing Fielder certainly won't be easy, as he is expected to have many suitors including the Rangers, Blue Jays, Nationals, Angels, among other teams. Fielder is also represented by the best agent in any sport, Scott Boras. Boras is known for signing his clients to the highest bidder, and is willing to wait till January to get his client signed. But Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has worked with Boras in the past, and has a solid relationship with him, so you never know.
Consider the Dodgers lineup, assuming they sign Fielder:
Dee Gordon, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Sands, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Fielder in the middle of the lineup certainly makes the middle of the Dodgers lineup more formidable, but nothing is guaranteed, and the Dodgers may not be given approval to seek one of Fielder or Pujols, especially when you consider that they just signed Juan Rivera to a one year deal worth $4.5 million.
I am curious if paying Rivera $4.5 million means James Loney may not have a job in LA in 2012, even if the Dodgers don't sign Fielder. Consider the fact that the Dodgers have Jerry Sands to play left field, I don't see them paying Rivera that much money to be a pinch hitter. Either that or right fielder Andre Ethier could be trade bait.