Former GM Jim Bowden doubts Prince Fielder would sign with Mariners

Jun 22, 2011, 5:58 PM | Updated: 6:13 pm
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Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder leads the NL with 20 home runs this season. (AP photo)

By Brady Henderson

We’re about five months and over half a baseball season away from when clubs can begin to sign free agents, but that hasn’t prevented the buzz in Seattle about the possibility of acquiring one of the game’s premier sluggers, Prince Fielder. Especially not when the Mariners’ offense and its lack of pop stands as a threat to derail the team’s hopes of its first playoff berth since 2001.

The Mariners already have Justin Smoak, who despite his costly error in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Nationals is considered a solid defender at first base. So signing Fielder would likely mean moving him to DH, a concession the Mariners probably wouldn’t mind making given the track record of offensive production they’d be getting with Fielder.

Since entering the league in 2005, Fielder has hit 212 home runs, including a National League-best 20 this season. That power would seemingly translate well at Safeco Field and give the Mariners production from DH that they haven’t had since Edgar Martinez retired in 2004.

There’s just one problem, according to Jim Bowden, the former Nationals general manager who’s now an analyst for ESPN.com and a co-host on SiriusXM radio.

“I’ve known Prince a little bit, not as well as Jack (Zduriencik) does, but he’s not the kind of guy that seems to me, at age 27, that’s ready to pull an Adam Dunn and go DH full time,” Bowden told Brock & Salk on Wednesday.

Other than interleague road games in which he has been the designated hitter, the only position Fielder has played in his career is first base. The only team Bowden sees being able to convince Fielder to move to DH full-time is the Yankees and their deep pockets, though as he wrote last week on ESPN.com, he doubts it will happen.

As Bowden noted, Fielder and Zduriencik have strong ties from when Zduriencik was a member of the Brewers’ front office. The Mariners will have money to spend with the contracts of Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson coming off the books. And they certainly have a need, entering Wednesday’s game with the third-fewest home runs (47) in the American League.

“He would be a perfect fit for the Mariners,” Bowden said of Fielder. “He changes the team. … My only concern is, is this kid at 27 really willing to give it up and DH full time? My tendency based on my conversations with him is that he’s not ready to do that.”

A few more notes from Bowden’s appearance on Brock & Salk:

-Bowden believes it’s “only a matter of time” before the Mariners extend Zduriencik’s contract.

-Bowden relayed one of his weekly conversations with Eric Wedge on SiriusXM in which he asked Wedge how much longer the Mariners can afford to stick with Chone Figgins at third base: “He said, ‘You know, there is an end to the timetable, there is a time where all of the sudden you just can’t do it anymore.’ ”

-Bowden said Dustin Ackley reminds him of a young Chase Utley and expects him to hit 15-18 home runs a season, and possibly 20. He wouldn’t be surprised if Ackley becomes a No. 3 hitter at some point.

Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson

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