Signing Prince Fielder would have been fun, but it would not have been wise
Prince Fielder is a member of the Detroit Tigers. That's a surprise. Turns out there actually was a "mystery team" after all.
Prince Fielder is not a member of the Baltimore Orioles. That's no surprise. The only mystery in Baltimore is why the Orioles signed Wilson Betemit. (I kid, I kid. I don't think it's nearly as bad a move as some fans are suggesting.)
Having Fielder in Baltimore would have been fun, but it would not have been wise.
First, the fun part. Fielder hits home runs. Lots of them.
Mark Reynolds, whose power numbers generated buzz in Baltimore when the Orioles acquired him prior to the 2011 season, clouted 37 homers for the Birds his first year in orange and black; Fielder averages 37 homers a season.
Whereas Reynolds is an all-or-nothing hitter, Fielder is all that and a bag of chips. Reynolds sports a career .331 on-base percentage and a 2.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fielder's career on-base percentage is .390, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 1.38.
Fielder's career highs are tantalizing: 50 home runs in 2007; 141 RBI in 2009; and, here's the kicker, 114 walks in 2010.
As I wrote this past season, his 475-foot blast into the right-field second deck at Miller Park in July would have struck the Warehouse on the fly had he hit it in Baltimore. Hitting the Warehouse would immediately add Fielder to Orioles lore, making an already large man even bigger in future re-tellings of the moment.
The Orioles could continue to be a sub-.500 ball club for the length of Fielder's contract, and it still would have been worth the price of admission at Camden Yards each night to see him have a few opportunities to litter Eutaw Street - and beyond - with baseballs. I consider Fielder's three games in Baltimore during the 2012 season as a member of the visiting Tigers (July 13, 14 & 15) to be must-see baseball for the historic potential alone.
Despite the power and pizzazz Fielder could have brought to a downtrodden franchise and its depressed fanbase, signing him to play in Baltimore would not have been wise. Fielder's nine-year, $214 million contract, one that is worth more than the New York Yankees' 2011 team payroll, would have crippled the franchise financially. He would ultimately become a fun side show to distract fans from the continued misery in the loss column. Simply put, there's not nearly enough bang in that young man's bat to make him worth all those bucks for a team with as many holes as the Orioles have.
These enormous, long-term contracts (Fielder's is the fourth-largest in MLB history) eventually hamper even the sport's wealthiest franchises (see, for example, Alex Rodriguez's decline and what it's starting to mean for New York or, in a few years, see what happens to the Angels with the Albert Pujols deal).
Not that it was even a possibility, but I could have lived (quite happily, actually) with the Orioles signing Fielder to a high-dollar, short-term deal. It'd be a heck of fun stay while it lasted even if it wouldn't change the team's competitive fortunes greatly. However, to do such a huge contract for such a long time would be, well, batty.