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Why spend a Princely sum when a pauper will do?

September 24, 2011 | 11:25 am


So in theory, the Dodgers can go after a big-time free agent this winter. But what are the odds, given that Frank McCourt has never signed a player to a contract for as much as $50 million, even when he wasn’t in bankruptcy court?

There are only two big names looming out there, of course: first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. And given that Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox last year for seven years at $142 million, you can see where the Pujols and Fielder contracts are headed.

Of the two, Fielder is four years younger, and although not as dynamic of an at-bat, probably the better long-term bet.

But now really, how is somebody going to go to McCourt and argue he needs to drop a record team contract on Fielder when he already has a player putting up similar numbers at about 1/28th the price?

That’s right kiddies, since the Dodgers picked up Juan Rivera in the middle of July, his numbers have been pretty close to those of Fielder’s. And Rivera was a Blue Jays castoff, designated for assignment before his trade to the Dodgers.

Since Rivera arrived and started batting behind Matt Kemp, the Dodgers offense has taken off. His home runs are not up there with Fielder, but otherwise he’s right there.

In his 201 at-bats as a Dodger, Rivera’s numbers are: .294 batting average, 5 home runs, 44 RBIs, 24 runs, 12 doubles and a .354 on-base percentage.

In his last 199 at-bats, Fielder’s numbers are: .307, 13 homers, 40 RBIs, 34 runs, 11 doubles and a .413 on-base percentage.

Think the difference is worth $150 mil? Better question, think McCourt will? Rivera has actually driven in more runs. He's making $5.25 million this season.

I’m not suggesting Rivera, a free agent at the end of the season, is anywhere near the player Fielder is. You can’t count on the 33-year-old Rivera repeating his second-half performance over the course of next season.

But I am suggesting that someone will make the case to McCourt that he can remain in the neighborhood at comparative bargain price. And I understand that these days money is a big issue with McCourt.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder celebrates after hitting a double against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Credit: Benny Sieu / McClatchy-Tribune