The Texas Rangers' interest in Prince Fielder is high enough that a handful of club officials met with the free-agent slugger in a face-to-face meeting at a Dallas-area hotel Friday.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said Saturday at Rangers FanFest that the club's meeting with Fielder and agent Scott Boras was "very preliminary."
Ryan was asked by a young fan as part of a Q&A at FanFest at the Arlington Convention Center what he thought about the meeting.
"We met Prince yesterday and his agent, Scott Boras, to try to get a true feel for where they are at this point in time in his free agency to see if we thought there might be something there that would work for the Texas Rangers," Ryan said. "It's very preliminary and it's very early in any type of negotiation process. It was an initial meeting that we had."
The club is exploring all possibilities to improve and Fielder is likely a backup option should a deal with Yu Darvish fall through, a source said.
The Rangers have until Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT to reach an agreement with Darvish, or the 25-year-old pitcher will play in Japan in 2012 and the Rangers won't have to pay the $51.7 million posting bid.
That does not mean the club couldn't afford both Darvish and Fielder, should Fielder's contract be structured a certain way. ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney tweeted earlier Friday that one executive believes that the Rangers, Nationals and Cubs may ultimately get a contract structure of six years with an opt-out after three years at $22 million to $24 million a year. That could make it easier for the Rangers to afford both Fielder and Darvish.
Fielder makes sense for the Rangers, given their lack of production at first base in recent years and the fact that he's a power, left-handed bat. If the club signs Fielder, it could mean that Josh Hamilton isn't in Texas past the 2012 season. He's a free agent after this season and the two sides haven't reached a long-term agreement.
Fielder will turn 28 in May and is the top hitter left on the market now that Albert Pujols has signed with the Angels.
Fielder played in all 162 games in the regular season for the Brewers in 2011, batting .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. He has played in at least 157 games in all six of his full seasons in the majors and has 230 home runs and a .282 average in that span.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.