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If you’re the Rangers you pick Prince Fielder over Josh Hamilton, right?

Jan 17, 2012, 11:10 AM EDT

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There has been increasing talk about the Rangers being interested in Prince Fielder.  Today Richard Justice of MLB.com has a column talking about the ins-and-outs of that.  Particularly what it would mean for Josh Hamilton:

Fielder’s signing would come at a time when Hamilton is approaching the final year of his contract. Last week, Hamilton said he would cut off negotiations if he’s not signed by the start of Spring Training … Hamilton would have to wonder if the Rangers have enough money to keep him AND Fielder. He might also wonder if the Rangers are choosing to sign Fielder instead of him.

Let’s say they can’t have them both, at least beyond 2012.  Personally, I’m having trouble seeing that as a problem.  Call me crazy, but wouldn’t you much rather have Prince Fielder around than Josh Hamilton going forward?  Hamilton is fragile and is no longer a center fielder. Fielder is the much better hitter. At least if you don’t assume that 2010 is the norm for Hamilton rather than the absolute peak.

If they can afford Darvish, Fielder and Hamilton for one year, they should do it and let Hamilton dangle when he’s a free agent in 2012. That’s what I’d do.

UPDATE: That’s what Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs would do too.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    I go with Hamilton. No brainer for me. Sure Hamilton might be fragile but he isn’t 5 foot 11, 280 pounds. That force on the joints is going to cause Fielder to break down sooner rather than later. I give it another 3 years before Fielder needs a walker to get to step in the batters box.

    • phillieschamps2012 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM

      Agreed. It may get to the point where they need to put Fielder in a golf cart to get him into the batter’s box.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      Fielder to break down sooner rather than late

      But you are taking someone who already is broken down? So if it’s the same contract, wouldn’t you want the guy who is a better hitter and healthier now?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM

        No, I would want guy who projects to be healthier down the road. I think that guy is Hamilton.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        I think that guy is Hamilton.

        But why? GP for both people in the 5 years that Hamilton has been a pro:

        Hamilton – 90, 156, 89, 133, 121 = 589 (118GP average)
        Fielder – 158, 159, 162, 161, 162 = 802 (160GP average)

        Hamilton has missed 213 games compared to Fielder. He’s also 4 years older than Fielder.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM

        I’m looking at what I think the next 5 years will look like. It is just a hunch. We will revisit this conversation in 5 years and see who is right.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

        Plus, when healthy Hamilton is the superior player. Despite missing significantly more games over the past 5 years, he has posted a cumulative WAR 0.2 greater than Fielder. Hence, even if banged up Hamilton carrier greater value. We don’t know how Fielder will do when banged up. We will soon find out.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:11 PM

        bWAR
        Fielder – 19.9
        Hamilton – 20.2

        fWAR
        Fielder – 22.1
        Hamilton – 20.8

        We can say it’s a push. However, Hamilton gets a large benefit by being classified as a CF from the positional adjustment. If he moves to RF, he loses a lot of his value. Looking just at offensive #s we get:

        wRC
        Fielder – 152, 125, 160, 137, 162
        Hamilton – 128, 133, 85, 178, 129

        Advantage Fielder

        wOBA
        Fielder – .417, .370, .420, .380, .408
        Hamilton – .387, .385, .321, .447, .371

        Advantage Fielder

        I honestly can’t pick Hamilton unless the contract demands are so far apart, like Fielder wants a 10 year/$250M deal and Hamilton 4/$100 or something like that. Fielder is 4 years younger, far more consistent, and has been way healthier.

      • hackerjay - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        A large part of Hamilton’s WAR advantage is because of the positional adjustment between first base and center field. Hamilton doesn’t play center any more, and left field has about the same adjustment as first base, so the difference will be much less favorable in Hamilton’s direction if they both hit the same amount over the next five years.

        Also, in what universe does it make sense to choose the already broken-down player that is four years older then the guy that might break down, but has never shown any signs of it what so ever?
        Maybe Fielder will age like Big Pappi, or maybe he’ll age like Mo Vaughn…we don’t know. What we do know is that Hamilton is already on the wrong side of 30 and already has had major injury issues, and those kinds of guys almost never get healthier the older they get.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        Because I will take the guy with the niggling injuries over the guy who is going to miss the overwhelming majority of his contract when he gets his hip and knee replaced. I repeat, the constant grind of daily baseball is not conducive to being 5 foot 11, 280 pounds. The injuries Fielder will sustain will be catastrophic and career ending. Hamilton will be banged up but will produce. Listen, when handing out contracts I would assume that it is on projected value not on past value. Based upon what I have said above, I believe Hamilton is the safer bet. You can disagree but I don’t think the logic is completely ridiculous.

      • hackerjay - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        But missing 30-70 games all but one year out of your career isn’t “nagging injuries”. It’s massive injuries that could spell the end of a career at any time.

      • miketreedy - Jan 17, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        My concern with Hamilton is not only games missed but his health issues at the end of both the last two seasons. He played in both post seasons but his body was a mess. He barely contributed in either WS except his homer in game 6 & needed surgery at the end of both seasons. That is when you need your best players to be healthy and able to perform.

        Based on this I think you have to go Fielder if the contract values are at least close.

    • HitsDingers - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      I don’t know if this is a faux pas to bring up like this, but doesn’t Hamilton’s drug addiction situation/condition worry you just as much as Fielder’s immense, immense weight?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        No….but it does worry me. Fielder has apparently tried to lose weight and seemingly cannot. So, he is more or less stuck with his stocky physique. I don’t blame him. By all accounts he eats healthy, exercises, and the like. Hamilton has admitted he has a problem and has taken steps to recover from that problem. With hard work, continued spiritual growth, honesty, and helping others he can recover from the hopeless state that is drug/alcohol addiction.

      • frug - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:37 PM

        The big problem to me isn’t so much the risk that Hamilton would relapse (though that is always a risk) it’s that the damage he did to his body. Yes Fielder’s size is a concern, but both the drugs themselves and the lifestyle that accompany them, mean that Hamilton’s body is simply more likely to break down than the average player.

    • cur68 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      I’d take Fielder. No injury history. Better hitter. Unlikely to break his arm sliding into anything. His biggest detraction is his weight. Injuries you can recover from, but not all the way: you’ll never who you once were, not totally. Losing weight can actually be built into a contract, and you not only recover from weight loss, you’re better than you were before. Imagining Fielder better than he is now only requires a diet & a weight room. Hamilton would require the contents of a black market pharmacy, time to be turned back, and an accountabilitybuddy.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM

        Yeah but Fielder, by all accounts, has done those things and is still a fat ass. Is that not the least bit concerning to anybody? Furthermore, it isn’t even about being fat. It is the cumulative pressure of being that massive on the joints. Add in the daily grind of playing baseball and he is a degenerative knee and hip condition waiting to happen.

      • cur68 - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        True about the “degenerative knee and hip condition waiting to happen”, but it hasn’t happened yet. Whereas Hamilton is breaking down now. This isn’t about Fielder over any elite slugger: this is Fielder vs. a guy as fragile as Hamilton, whose bones appear to be made candy cane. Fielder will break down, sure. But, if on the same team, you’ll probably see Hamilton on the DL 2, 3 times before you see Fielder even limping.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM

        I don’t think my point is clear. I think Hamilton will continue to suffer minor breakdowns but still produce at or above his current level. I think Fielder will suffer a massive injury due to his weight load and will be Barry Zito useless.

      • cur68 - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        Hmmm…could be, could very well be. But in terms of predictability, and if we’re predicting, that injury happens to Hamilton far sooner than it happens to Fielder. Track record backs me up here. Of the 2 guys, I think its Hamilton that’s likely to have that massive crash, rather than Fielder. He just about did it last season, with that arm break sliding in to home…a play where he wasn’t even touched by the catcher! Fielder meantime, has a history of the opposite: durability.

        Ultimately, for me, there’s just too many things already wrong with Hamilton. I think Fielder will start to show overt signs of breaking down round about the 30 year mark, from the ankles up. Hamilton is well past that and of the two guys, in my mind, the most likely to suffer a catastrophic failure this season or next. That’s the way he’s trending, at any rate.

  2. phillieschamps2012 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    This is intriguing. If the Rangers do sign Fielder and they let Hamilton walk as a FA, where would Hamilton go? If John Mayberry Jr. does not work out for the Phillies in 2012, the Phillies will need a left fielder because I think Dom Brown is going to be a bust. I’m sure the Phillies would have interest in Hamilton.

    Hunter Pence can be Hamilton’s accountability buddy. “Let’s go Eat, Josh!”

  3. stex52 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Interesting question. Not that easy a choice. I keep forgetting how young Fielder is. My gut feel was Hamilton, but I didn’t realize he wasn’t the CF anymore. I guess I lean Hamilton, though, on the idea that a decent power hitting 1st baseman is always available somewhere. Not like the Rangers are short on hitting anytime soon.

    • hasbeen5 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      Fielder is much more than a decent hitting first baseman though. He’s one of the elite hitters in the game, and has been healthier and more consistent than Hamilton.

      • stex52 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:47 AM

        True enough. But I tend to think a solid lineup with a bunch of regular .800 OPS types is better than a couple of stars. And in that scenario the defense and athleticism of an outfielder counts for a lot.

        But if Hamilton is losing his legs, never mind.

  4. aceshigh11 - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    I think the Rangers should try to get Darvish, Fielder and Hamilton all on the same roster, even it’s for a single year.

    They’ve made it to the Series two years in a row…2012 could be their year.

  5. rebeljpl - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Geez… Being a Rangers fan, this is tough to say. Hamilton has been great here and has done a ton to make this a respectable franchise but the injuries are very concerning. Fielder on the other hand, played EVERY game last year and is another supremely powerful lefty who will eat up that homerun porch in right. I would do absolutely anything to try and get both plus Darvish on the same team, at least for 2-3 seasons but then beyond that I find myself leaning more towards Fielder, but it’s really close…

  6. icanspeel - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Would it be crazy to compare Prince Fielder to his dad Cecil Fielder? Cecil was a little taller and had a little less weight and hit his peak at 27, but by 33 his career was declining and coming to an end.

    • hackerjay - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      For one thing, Prince has already shown himself to be the superior player then his dad, so he’s coming from a higher peak.

      Secondly, even if he does fall off a cliff by age 33, that still means you are going to get five years of production out of him, which will be the majority of the contract (assuming they don’t do something silly like give him 10 years, but hardly any 10 year contracts will ever work out).

    • beanster71 - Jan 17, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      Good point. After turning 28 Cecil averaged 143 games over the next 5 yrs and in the 5th year hit 39 HRs with an .834 OPS which was above his career avg. It would be the NEXT contract after age 32 I would be wary of.

    • fordman84 - Jan 17, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      Why do we compare Fielder to his dad but not Josh. Granted Josh’s dad didn’t play ball, so that comparison is tough. But if what your parents did is any relation to how you will do in the MLB, then Josh shouldn’t even be playing. Cecil should be a non factor in all of this.

      • beanster71 - Jan 17, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        The relevance in this case is the concern that Prince’s body type and weight will lead to an imminent physical breakdown during the term of the contract. While a lot of this is admittedly wild speculation, Cecil at least provides a real example that Prince breaking down is not a foregone conclusion.

  7. notthatandyj - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Wow, I’m tired of reading comments about Fielder’s body breaking down just because of his size. In six full seasons, Fielder averages playing 159.83 games per year. Hamilton, three years older with a history of injury problems, averages 117.8 in his five seasons in the majors. I’ll take Fielder over Hamilton, even for a long contract, any day.

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to have both on my roster.

  8. rebeljpl - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Everyone is making some great points and I agree with most of it. The age and injuries is what I keep coming back to. If they were the same age I would go Hambone, hands down, injuries or not. But the age is a big factor. For the poster above, about weight loss being built into a contract, I’ve heard of that before. More along the lines of prospect players but still I guess it could work BUT I highly doubt that Boras would allow it. Unless they got really desperate to get a contract. It’s unfortunate that they don’t have Hamilton locked up until 2014 or after because that’s when their big contract with Fox kicks in and money shouldn’t be much of a problem and then they can really go all Yankees and overpay vets just to keep them around… Hopefully they won’t operate that way but having money as opposed to not makes you do things differently.

  9. rebeljpl - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Contract length is a good factor to bring up. Fielder WILL opt out of any deal he could have with Texas if he can. He’s seeking the big payday. Hamilton might be willing to take a shorter term deal which could be key to the decision making. If Hamilton is content on a shorter term deal then great, see if you can get some incentives built into that. But if he goes crazy and think he deserves more than 4-5 years then that’s a bad move IMO. He won’t play at this level for a long time you would think and nagging injuries could force him out before his time is really up. Fielder is a major injury away from eating himself out of the league during recovery but at this point all we’re doing is playing a guessing game. I have faith in Nolan and JD to put what they think to be the best possible team on the field, for the short and long term. Hopefully that group of guys is capable of getting over the hump now that they’ve proven they can at least get to the WS.

  10. nightrain42 - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    I’d go with Prince. But man, for one year….that’s gonna be one helluva lineup!

  11. marzalmighty - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    So, this is speculative to then NOT signing both to long term deals? Who’s to say the Rangers can’t or won’t sign Hamilton to a deal shorter, but similar, to that of Pujols? Team friendly the first year, with some major dough kicking in after. Also, Hamilton’s market value could drastically change depending on his tenure on the DL this upcoming season… Which seems inevitable.

  12. stackers1 - Jan 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Everyone seems to be ignoring the douche factor – i.e. Josh Hamilton.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      huh? when has Hamilton been a douche?

  13. shawnuel - Jan 17, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I disagree that Fielder is a “much better hitter” or even a better hitter. I DO think he projects to BE better over the life of a new contract, however. Plus, Texas can stick Borbon in CF, play Prince full time at 1B with some DH sprinkled in there to keep him fresh. Then they have a revolving DH with Moreland, Napoli and “Mr. Intangibles” with each getting some AB’s at their respective positions. Sounds like a recipe for multiple AL West crowns to me.

  14. foreverchipper10 - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Fielder hands down. All the above jabber is ridiculous. To base giving out a contract to either of these two based on who you think will suffer less severe injuries is ridiculous. Look at the track records thus far. You cannot say just because Fielder is heavy he will get hurt. He hasn’t yet. Someone up top mentioned he could age like Big Papi or Mo Vaughn. That is something that cannot be projected. And if you do, and weigh it against someone who is always hurt like Hamilton and still choose Hamilton then you are going against the point you are trying to make.

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