Dale Sveum doesnt have to walk into the living room of Prince Fielders Florida home and sell him on the future.
This isnt big-time college football recruiting. This is a dance between the highest levels of the Cubs organization and the Boras Corporation.
There are several market forces at work here, but it sounds like the personal relationship between the Cubs manager and the big free agent hasnt come into play yet. The rumors about Fielder coming to Wrigley Field wont stop until theres a press conference somewhere.
At this point, I think its a lot of media talking more than us doing anything, Sveum said Friday. We havent had any talks with Prince and I havent had any conversations with him. So I think its more of the media and other people bringing this to the table than what were doing right now. We havent initiated any kind of contact at all.
This certainly doesnt rule out Theo Epstein continuing a dialogue with Scott Boras, the games most powerful agent. But Fielder was the question to ask on a teleconference after the Cubs officially announced their 2012 coaching staff.
Sveum doesnt have the same clout as Lou Piniella or Terry Francona, but he will be consulted on player personnel. Sveum may not be a dynamic media presence, but he has a reputation of being straightforward and telling it like it is. This was about as good as it gets within the cone of silence.
Sveums six seasons as a Milwaukee Brewers coach coincided with Fielders first six full seasons in the big leagues. So Sveum can tell Epstein all about how Fielder was a great teammate and played every day with maximum effort.
More than one person has described Epsteins approach to the big-tickets items like this: What would it take? How could this work? General manager Jed Hoyer has used this talking point: A major-market team will look into every possibility.
There is no denying that at the age of 27 Fielder can seriously think about the possibility of Cooperstown. This left-handed bat would be a perfect fit at Wrigley Field.
But there is a clear disconnect between what the national media perceives and what the beat writers have turned into the narrative incremental moves with a focus on pitching and defense. There is enough gray area to stake out almost any position.
Outside of Chicago, there has been talk that Epstein wants a signature move as the new president of baseball operations. They think the Cubs need star power and a box-office attraction. (Conversely, the teams finances have also been called into question on Twitter.)
Those whove watched Alfonso Soriano play every day and seen what age and injuries have done to his game doubt the organization is eager to make a huge long-term commitment right now.
The Cubs have been waiting for years to get the Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome contracts off the books. Theyre finally getting some flexibility. Epstein has said he has zero interest in making a splash.
Looking more broadly at the industry as a whole, there is a new collective bargaining agreement that will limit how much a team can spend on amateur talent, as well as begin a new era of testing, and who knows how that will impact front offices.
Brewers star Ryan Braun could be facing a 50-game suspension to start the season after a reported positive test that will be appealed.
It took everybody by surprise, Sveum said. Its just an unfortunate thing thats come about. Hopefully, he gets exonerated and there was some kind of mix-up.
A National League Central without (possibly) Braun and Fielder and Albert Pujols shouldnt dramatically change the thinking at Clark and Addison.
The New York tabloids and the Boston media love playing the Yankees and Red Sox against each other, but the Cubs wont be making reactionary moves in this division. Epstein knows how much ground the Cubs have to cover before they get back into contention.
Are the Cubs in or out on Fielder? It sounds like theyre content to be around. Its almost impossible to see them doing a Pujols deal (254 million over 10 years). But they can let the game come to them.
Realistically, what other options are out there? The Seattle Mariners? The Texas Rangers? The Miami Marlins? A mystery team?
Remember that negotiations are fluid. No one really saw the Los Angeles Angels coming and then everything changed during a 48-hour window at the winter meetings.
But the Cubs dont have to compete with the Dodgers for market share and chairman Tom Ricketts likely wont make the aggressive push Angels owner Arte Moreno did for Pujols. And thats not a knock on Ricketts, whos vowed to be hands-off and leave the baseball decisions to Epstein.
Last week at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Epstein sat in his suite and described the feeling when the new free agent holds up the jersey at the press conference.
With the flashbulbs popping, part of you thinks that this could be a great moment in franchise history. The louder voice in the back of your head says this could be a huge regret for the next six years.
Until that moment approaches, Sveum isnt buying into the Fielder hype: Thats just a lot of the media bringing that out right now.