By Shawn Muller-

(CBS) Albert Pujols is the most feared hitter in baseball and was arguably the biggest free agent to hit the open market since Alex Rodriguez left Seattle for Texas back in 2001. But unlike A-Rod at the time of his free agency, Pujols is 31-years-old.

All I have to say is: Thank you Mr. Epstein.  Thank goodness you didn’t shell out the big bucks Pujols was looking for to win his services.

The Florida — oops, I mean Miami — Marlins reportedly offered the slugger a ten-year deal worth roughly $275 million dollars, and his former team—a team that needs not be mentioned—is said to have offered him roughly $200 million dollars for nine years.  The Miami deal quickly fell through yesterday afternoon, leaving many to wonder if this was about to become a Cubs vs. Cardinals race for the slugger.

Apparently, we were all wrong because the Angels swooped in—seemingly out of nowhere—as inked the MVP to a ten year deal worth $250 million.

When I heard the news this morning, I was relieved.

All I could wonder was how much money the Cubs were willing to gamble on a player that will be on the back-end of his career faster than you can say “wait til’ next year”?  Chicago has had a knack for offering huge contracts to players on the back end of their careers, and although Pujols is not your ordinary free agent, I am not so sure offering a king’s ransom for an aging superstar is or was worth it, even if the Cubs have the money to spend.  If the Cubs “backed off” in the chase for Pujols, it’s not like you can blame them.  No offense, but giving Pujols a 10-year deal—if that is what mattered most– at the age of 31 was an absolutely stupid move by the Angels.  He will be 32 by Opening Day, and it is just a matter of time before you begin to see his skills start to diminish.  Sooner or later, the .320 hitting, 40 homerun, 120 RBI Albert we know now will begin to fade.

I have said it once, and I will say it again:  If you are going to offer that large sum of money to a slugging first baseman this off-season, then the Cubs need to put all their chips in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes.  Prince puts up as the same hefty offensive numbers as Pujols, but is four years younger and will probably come with a cheaper price tag.

Not by much, but it will be less than Pujols.

Currently, it is believed that the Seattle Mariners are the team to beat for the services of Fielder, but I am having a hard time believing such rumors.  Seattle’s Safeco Field is a hitter’s nightmare, and while the Mariners may have the money to compete for Fielder, I am not so sure Prince is willing to see his numbers drop by going to the Pacific Northwest.

One advantage the Cubs may have over other possible suitors for Fielder is money compared to the length of stay.  Chicago wants to give Fielder a shorter contract in exchange for more money per season, thus making Wrigley Field an interesting proposition for Mr. Fielder.  Come to Chicago, make a lot of money, and if things don’t work out you are still free to pursue another landing spot with time to spare in your baseball career.

A Chicago Cubs and Prince Fielder marriage for the next 5-6 years make the most sense for the mammoth slugger and the Cubs organization.  Fielder is familiar with Wrigley Field.  He has hit very well inside the “Friendly Confines” during his time with the Milwaukee Brewers and that comfort-level should give Chicago an edge over every other possible suitor outside of Milwaukee.

It makes too much sense from both ends.

Now that Pujols has agreed to a deal with the Angels, the market for Fielder should be heating up shortly and I am hoping that the Cubs win out in the end for the long-term health of the club.  They need to do whatever it takes to get Fielder in Cubbie pinstripes for the next five or six years no matter what.

Theo Epstein needs to make his presence known to his new fan base, and although Pujols would have definitely made quite the splash, it wouldn’t have been the right move.

Fielder is the safer bet.

And you should always play it safe when gambling with a lot of money.

shawn muller 2 9 Muller: Fielder Should Be Cubs First Choice Anyway

Shawn Muller

Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at Read more of his blogs here.

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