If Victor Martinez had not blown out his knee working out in Florida, Prince Fielder might have been a Dodger. Los Angeles ran a stealth recruitment of Fielder for two months, beginning immediately after the December winter meetings, only to be trumped when Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, concerned about contingency plans to replace Martinez, told his general manager, "I think we should go after Prince."
The Dodgers maintained frequent contact with Scott Boras, the agent for Fielder, over the past two months. They intensified their effort two weeks ago when three top club officials met with Fielder in Dallas, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The Dodgers offered about $160 million for seven years but insisted on front-loading the contract and including an opt-out clause. The opt-out clause would come after the third or fourth year -- the specifics were never decided because the two sides never advanced far enough to nail down an offer sheet.
The source said that Boras asked all winter for a 10-year deal, but that "there was no way" the Dodgers would offer a deal close to that length.
The opt-out clause was important to Los Angeles for two reasons: The club is being sold through bankruptcy proceedings and owner Frank McCourt did not want to saddle the new owner with such a lengthy commitment, and also the club wanted protection against watching a 275-pound Fielder age through his 30s with guaranteed money.
The club's solution to those issues was to offer Fielder a mountain of money for three or four years -- about $26 million per year -- to buy out the prime years of his career on a short-term basis. At the end of that term, when the annual average value would fall below market value, the Dodgers assumed that Fielder would either take another crack at free agency or remain with the club at a discounted price.
Fielder maintained interest in the Dodgers. But any chance for Los Angeles ended when Boras informed GM Ned Colletti that another club was offering a nine-year deal that included more than $50 million in guaranteed money than the Los Angeles deal. That club, Detroit, came up with the deal only in response to Martinez's injury.