Prince Fielder’s Hot Start Leads The 2012 Free Agent Class

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This past off-season, the big winners of free agency in Major League Baseball were Carl Crawford (7 years, $142M), Jayson Werth (7 years, $126M), and Cliff Lee (5 years, $120M).But those guys are not on the same level as Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and CC Sabathia, all of whom could be free agents once this season ends, and will likely command even bigger deals.

Back in February, Pujols cut off negotiations with the Cardinals, ensuring that he will be a free agent this fall. And so far, the pressure may be getting to him. While he does have seven home runs, he is hitting just .245.

And now, Pujols may not even be the hottest first baseman on the free agent market.

Fielder’s hot start may have some Cubs fans rethinking their infatuation with Pujols. Through the first month of the season, Fielder is hitting .330 with six home runs and is on pace to be worth 9.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR, via For comparison, Josh Hamilton was worth 8.2 WAR during his MVP season last year.

For pitchers, Sabathia will be the most valuable piece if he opts-out of his contract. And his hot start is ensuring that he will do just that. He would be joined by Mark Buehrle, who is struggling early on, and a number of top closers.

Here is a look at how some of the key members of next winter’s free agent class and how their numbers through the first month of the season project for a full season…

2012 Free Agents

Fielder, Sabathia and Jose Reyes are off to the hottest starts. There is still a lot of time left for the other guys to prove they are worth a big contract, but guys like Buehrle, Pujols, and David Ortiz have dug themselves a hole that may be difficult to get out of.