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One year ago, the fate of both these players seemed fairly certain. It looked like the Cardinals were going to sign Pujols to a ginormous contract extension, and Fielder was going to go to the highest bidder on the market.
At this time, the Blue Jays were also putting the wheels in motion of transitioning Adam Lind to first base. Two impending free agents like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were probably the furthest thing from their minds.
However, a lot can change over the course of one year; while the Adam Lind at first base experiment has gone swimmingly, the batting cleanup project has not. After 11 seasons with the Cards, Albert Pujols may be a free agent for the first time in his career, and Prince Fielder is still going to get paid handsomely.
How does all of this pertain to the Toronto Blue Jays? Very simple - the two biggest free agents on the market this offseason will be first baseman, the Blue Jays could always use a better first baseman, and there is plenty of cash for them to sign one.
For a team such as the Blue Jays who are merely a few pieces away from becoming a true contender, somebody like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols would definitely help put them over the top. But is it worth all that money?
Under the current regime, Alex Anthopoulos has yet to sign a free agent to a multi-year deal. While fear of commitment can be detrimental in a relationship, this can be a good thing in baseball. Paying top dollar for a player whose best years are behind them does not seem like a road Anthopoulos is willing to go down.
For a few years now, it's been all about building through the draft, signing international free agents, making lucrative trades. The previous regime went out and paid top dollar for the best free agents, and look where it got them.
For AA to deviate from the plan now after instilling the vision of "building from the ground up" would be contradictory to everything he's stood for since taking over the helm in 2009. The game-changer though is if upper-upper management decides the time for contention is now, and the best way to fast track the plan is to sign a top free agent.
Is it just money after all ... the Blue Jays wouldn't have to give up anything in the way of talent or prospects in order to get Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. And we know the pockets run very deep, so money is not an issue.
If the Blue Jays wanted to go after Pujols or Fielder, there is no question the money is there to do it. They would essentially be bidding against the Yankees, but at no time has there ever been anything said about a "cap" for the Blue Jays.
First thing's first, if the Blue Jays hypothetically sign Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, I think that signals the beginning of the end of Adam Lind. Sure, they could revert him back to the DH role, but Edwin Encarnacion does the same job (maybe even a little bit better) and $1.5 million dollars cheaper next year.
Plus, Adam Lind's team-friendly contract makes him a very attractive player to acquire via trade. Not to discount everything I said about Lind earlier this week, but there would be too many cooks in the kitchen at first with Lind and either Fielder/Pujols.
If the Blue Jays decided to let the purse strings fly open, who should they target; Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder? Both sluggers are looking for $100 plus million multi-year deals, perhaps even record-setting contracts.
At 27 years old, Prince Fielder is four years the junior of Albert Pujols (and one year younger than Adam Lind mind you). In the baseball business, those four years are the equivalent of big money, which means Fielder is going to want multiple years ... maybe even upwards of seven I'm guessing?
At 31, Albert Pujols can't be as ambitious as Fielder with the length of the contract demands, but he can certainly ask for top dollar. No matter who signs where, I figure Prince signs longer-term but Pujols signs for more money.
With all this being said, if I had to spend my money on either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, then I'd put my cash on Prince Fielder. As much as a long-term deal frightens me, I can't see Fielder dropping off to the point where he becomes worthy of being DFA'd.
If you look at the Blue Jays lineup as it currently stands, it's good ... but it's not great. On any given night, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees one through six hitters are among the best in the league. Pluck any of those players and put them on any other team and they immediately become their best player.
The Blue Jays have a handful of players like that at their disposal, but not quite the core their adversaries in New York and Boston do. All it would take is somebody like Prince to put Toronto in the stratosphere of the Yankees and Red Sox.
With the addition of Prince Fielder, it could really be that watershed moment that turns the tide for this franchise. Just like when the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez in the offseason and immediately became the favourites to win it all, so too could the Blue Jays if they land Prince Fielder.
The Alex Anthopoulos regime thus far can be summed up like this; a series of small, calculated moves which are designed to lead to the promised land. Signing Prince Fielder would be one big move ... and if it happens, get ready to buckle in.