This news comes from a Bob Nightengale tweet, who stated that the free agent slugger and the defending AL champions were meeting at a Dallas-area hotel. Fielder would make a lot of sense for the Rangers, who suffered through Mitch Moreland at first base last year. Moreland had a .259/.320/.414 line last year for the Rangers and was worth just 0.4 fWAR, one of the worst marks in baseball for a first baseman. Moreland also underwent wrist surgery at the end of November, and there’s a chance he might not be ready for the beginning of spring training.
But do the Rangers have the capacity available to sign Fielder? Texas already has $74.4 million committed to payroll in 2012, a year after having a $92 million payroll. That 2012 payroll doesn’t include the salary for Yu Darvish (expected to be between $12 and $15 million), and large arbitration raises for Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz, among others. Figure all that in, and Texas’s payroll in 2012 will be higher than it was in 2011, and the team still doesn’t have a sufficient first baseman. While Fielder’s .981 OPS and and 5.5 fWAR would be a massive improvement over Moreland, it’s not known if the Rangers would be willing to increase payroll by upwards of 30% to accomodate him.
Fielder will probably end up getting between $22 and $24 million per season, which could bump Texas’s payroll to north of $120 million if they sign the slugger. But Texas isn’t alone in the race for Fielder, with the Nationals and Cubs apparently lying in the weeds, waiting to make their move. I think he’ll get signed by the end of next week. We’re getting a little too close to spring for a player of Fielder’s caliber to remain unsigned.