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01/11/12 10:00 AM EST
Prince stretching free agency into new territory
Prized first baseman heading toward 'latest' big signing ever
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Agent Scott Boras continues to pound the market for his prime client, Prince Fielder, and he may yet achieve his goal of a record deal for the free-agent first baseman. Perhaps not financially, although there is a very good reason for believing that Boras is angling for a deal worth something like $24.7 million annually: Albert Pujols' recent 10-year agreement with the Angels breaks down to about $24.6 million a year. Fielder may not get there -- a source told MLB.com on Wednesday that his price must come down in order for the Nationals to consider signing him. Nevertheless, with the meticulous way it's going, he remains likely to sign the latest megadeal in baseball history. Elite players and their bounties normally do not take this long to find each other. The clock is ticking, and with each gong, Fielder slides past someone else on this timeline. On Tuesday, Fielder passed Carlos Beltran, who agreed to his seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets on Jan. 10, 2005. If he remains unsigned through Wednesday, Fielder would jump Vladimir Guerrero, who struck his five-year, $70 million deal with the Angels on Jan. 11, 2004. Beyond that, there would be only one remaining target date: Jan. 26, 2005, the day when Carlos Delgado ended a long free agency by signing a four-year, $52 million pact with the Marlins. Certainly, free-agent signings regularly occur up to and even through Spring Training. But the leading men are usually all accounted for long before the trucks head to Arizona and Florida. A year ago, the latest prominent free-agent agreement occurred on Jan. 5, between the Rangers and Adrian Beltre, also a Boras client (another of his guys, Jayson Werth, was first out of the gate on Dec. 6, when he signed with the Nationals). Here are timelines of the top free-agent deals of the previous eight offseasons. 2010-11: Werth (Dec. 6), Carl Crawford, Red Sox (Dec. 11); Cliff Lee, Phillies (Dec. 14); Beltre (Jan. 5). 2009-10: John Lackey, Red Sox (Dec. 16); Matt Holliday, Cardinals (Jan. 5); Jason Bay, Mets (Jan. 5). 2008-09: CC Sabathia, Yankees (Dec. 11); A.J. Burnett, Yankees (Dec. 12); Mark Teixeira, Yankees (Dec. 23). 2007-08: Torii Hunter, Angels (Nov. 23); Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (Dec. 13); Aaron Rowand, Giants (Dec. 13). 2006-07: Alfonso Soriano, Cubs (Nov. 21); Carlos Lee, Astros (Nov. 27); Barry Zito, Giants (Dec. 29). 2005-06: B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays (Nov. 26); Rafael Furcal, Dodgers (Dec. 7); Burnett, Blue Jays (Dec. 7); Johnny Damon, Yankees (Dec. 21). 2004-05: Beltran (Jan. 10); Pedro Martinez, Mets (Dec. 14); Delgado. 2003-04: Gary Sheffield, Yankees (Dec. 1); Bartolo Colon, Angels (Dec. 9); Miguel Tejada, Orioles (Dec. 16); Guerrero (Jan. 11). Of the other nine-figure deals in history, none was struck beyond December. They range from Dec. 9 (Mike Hampton, with the Rockies in 2000) to Dec. 21 (Kevin Brown, with the Dodgers in 1998).