Why the Mariners need to sign Prince Fielder

Actually, they don’t.

With the Angels signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million contract, also signing C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77 million contract, they are a force to be reckoned with in 2012. But, this isn’t the time to spend recklessly.

Yet, a lot of fans are riding their hopes on the Mariners signing Prince Fielder.

In some ways, the situation is similar to what happened at WSU, with the signing of Mike Leach. It’s a big contract, but consider the difference between college football and professional baseball. Leach went out and found players that fit his system, as well as the game structure, at Texas Tech. As a result, he was very successful. Leach didn’t go after the big splash, but rather built a team that was structurally sound and performed brilliantly well.

Let’s get this out of the way: Fielder is not a cure-all, not the savior of the team and is hardly worth the money the team would spend to acquire him.

In no way does one player make a suffering team great. And let’s be honest, the Mariners are suffering. Their offense has lagged behind below-average major league teams for a couple of years now. Safeco Field’s fences aren’t the problem. Richie Sexon, when he was hitting home runs (or hitting, just in general), didn’t seem to have a problem with them, neither did Bret Boone, John Olerud or Edgar Martinez.

Every player eventually loses their production. Look at Griffey when he came back to Seattle. The fences at Safeco have also worked fine to bolster pitching. Rather, since 2004, the team has trudged out on to the field with an offense that makes most AAA teams look good. The past two years, in particular, have been tough to watch. A major league team with a .230 batting average just doesn’t work.

Shoring up one position with Fielder won’t cause that .230 average to skyrocket to a more respectable .250 or even  to .260. At best, it might help increase it to .235.

Consider King Felix. He’s the love of the team, and well-deserved of that love. He’s incredible. But, despite winning a Cy Young Award and maintaining a high quality performance, the Mariners have still languished in the basement of the AL West. He can’t carry the team. Nor can Ichiro, Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp or Justin Smoak on their own. Every element must be capable of keeping the pace, should one fall.

The same theory goes into building a strong economy for a city. You need your food suppliers, banks, gas stations, entertainment, technology and industrial areas all to do well. If a majority of the town is employed at the vehicle manufacturing plant when the auto industry tanks, like we saw some years ago, the town falls apart. On the baseball field, if your right fielder, third baseman, catcher, designated (non)hitter all fail to get the offensive job done, that’s 44 percent of your lineup that’s not working.

And that’s where the Mariners have been for the last two years. Adding Prince Fielder would only reduce that to 33 percent of your lineup not working.

To me, that’s not worth the $150 million it will likely take to sign Fielder.

Rather, there are alternative options. People who can help hold the boat afloat while taking pressure off of the others. In proper maritime punnery, we need to drop the excess anchor weighing us down (Figgins, mainly) and let the crew get its swordsmanship down (Ackley and co. getting at-bats and finishing their growth).

The team has great prospects inside, but has problems on the offensive side that one player cannot fix. Unfortunately, some Seattle media folk can’t help but entice fans into thinking that one mega deal will fix this team.

Fielder is good. Very good. And he’s very tempting. The team’s money can be better spent on other players that can contribute to the team in a similar fashion.

The Mariners don’t need to make a big splash in the free agent market. Instead, the system is ripe with players that can fit perfectly in Seattle.

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