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In Sports Commentary

Is Prince Fielder worth a quarter of the Brewers' annual payroll?

Dealing Fielder could finance a championship


You've got to love almost everything about Prince Fielder.

He's jolly. He plays hard. He can hit. He can field. Once he gets his momentum going he can even run a little bit. He keeps his mouth shut. He's a good citizen.

Who cares if he doesn't love his daddy? That's about the only stain on his record. He has the potential to become a big, big baseball star.

The question that faces us is whether Prince Fielder is too big for the Milwaukee Brewers.

There is, of course, no simple answer to that question. But a look at the complex factors that lead to an answer has to begin with what you think about the Milwaukee Brewers.

There are basically three groups of baseball teams. The top tier are the guys who can spend themselves out of trouble and into contention. Think Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies. The next tier are the teams that have to watch what they spend, but aren't afraid to bite off a big chunk if they think it will result in success.

The Brewers are members of that group along with the Cardinals, Rockies and Blue Jays. Then you've got the bottom tier, where spending money is about as popular as getting a terminal case of cancer. The Pirates, Padres and Nationals are part of that group.

The Brewers are what I call a Lightning-In-A-Bottle team; a good team. Competitive. And if everything happens to jell at the right time, they could win a World Series. But it would take a remarkable set of circumstances for that to happen. They need career years out of surprising players. They need to be healthy. They need to avoid controversy. They need to hit, field and run better than expected.

Teams like the Brewers go to work every day hoping for just that set of circumstances. They scout talent and examine payrolls and try to make decisions based on common, fiscal and baseball sense.

Which brings us back to Fielder.

He's one of the best power hitters in baseball. He's becoming one of the best hitters in the game, too. He's 25 years old. And after the 2011 season, he will be a free agent. Which brings us to the question of what to do about Prince Fielder.

He's going to command huge money. He might well be in the $20 million a year range over five or six years. Especially if he has a great season this year, those numbers are not out of the question. It makes you catch your breath, doesn't it?

Let's say for a minute that the Brewers win the sweepstakes and keep Fielder at something around $20 million a year. That's about one-fourth of their total payroll -- wrapped up in one guy -- which doesn't leave much room for anything else. There are no huge untapped revenue streams for the Brewers. About the only place they have flexibility is in how much they spend.

So, think about it for a minute. Does a Milwaukee Brewers team with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and a bunch of other guys make your heart beat faster? Do you think that's a team that can make a run at a World Series?

The answer is open to debate. But I think that the way you answer that question says a lot about what you think about the Milwaukee Brewers.

If you think they are a team that should contend every year and expect that they will always be in the hunt for a playoff berth, then you say of course you have to sign Fielder. Both Braun and Fielder are better when they are both in the lineup.

But if you believe the Brewers are trying to catch lightning in a bottle and need a minor miracle to win a World Series against the big boys, then you say it's okay to trade Fielder. God knows what you could get for him, but it would certainly be a lot of talent.

Now, I wouldn't be surprised if the Brewers brass tried to sign Fielder, no matter how much it takes. They want people to think they are one of the big boys, too.

But they aren't. And unless they do something spectacular this year, I think this team gets a lot closer to the World Series without Prince Fielder in the lineup.


Talkbacks

Hainer | Feb. 20, 2010 at 10:58 a.m. (report)

"Ride these two years out and see what happens." Hmmm...a good way to lose the Prince -- AND your leverage, plus your future prospects. And, AJ...he ain't gonna land with the Cubs unless he follows some crazy template where he retires a time or two in the next year, is traded to the Mets, retires again citing injury and signs as a free agent with the Brewers' fiercest rival. "Jolly," Dave, plays for the Packers. Prince is complex enough to have earned a pass on such easy big man connotations. It wasn't at all mean to go with "jolly," just lazy. So, hey...stay jovial.

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captain | Feb. 17, 2010 at 12:20 p.m. (report)

I don't think you will ever get equal value in a trade. Ride these next two years out and see what happens.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 17, 2010 at 8:50 a.m. (report)

The Brewers will make a "hey, thanks for everything you've done for us" offer to Fielder, and in good faith, Fielder will listen. But that's as far as it will go. All of you folks cut from the "We can sign CC!" mold need to come back off the ledge now, so you don't accidentally slip and fall off when he leaves. What you should be concerned about is: Can we get a good return on him once the trade is made? That is the only real question here. 3-5 years from now one of two things will have happened. Either we got young viable talent back for Fielder, and we will still be contending in the Central, or we'll have gotten three or four Brady Clark types in return, and it's back to losing 90+ games a year. If you are persistent in saying we can sign him, look no further than his agent. Yes, Fielder is a nice guy, loves baseball, does good things, etc etc. His agent is not that guy. Have no doubt, if we put an offer on the table for 20 million over 5-6 years, the first words from Boras will be "Imagine what teams with more money will pay you." His clients do NOT miss free agency. Period. Just hope he doesn't land on the Cubs. Derrick Lee is about to be 35 or 36, and has been on his way down every year. They'll be looking at Fielder. How bad would THAT suck?

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Broner | Feb. 16, 2010 at 8:12 p.m. (report)

If the Brewers play their cards right, they could get a lot in return for Prince. But they have been competitive in the past few years in large part to him so it's hard for me to think that getting rid of him will keep them as contenders. How many guys will it take to put up his 140 RBIs, 45 HRs, and 100 BBs? Plus, Prince has a draw that not a lot of other players have. If you have the game on TV or the radio and he comes to bat, you stop what you're doing until you see or hear his at bat.

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MrHuber | Feb. 16, 2010 at 6:37 p.m. (report)

A possible landing spot for Fielder could be Chicago (White Sox)....... Paul Konerko is 34 years old, and they have prospects to give including starting pitcher Daniel Hudson, who could be a top flight pitcher and start immediately beind Gallardo and Wolf. They also have outfielder Carlos Quentin who not only just signed a one-year deal worth $550,000 in the offseason, but could provide some pop behind Braun and could maybe move to first base. And who knows, maybe the Sox could kick-in up and coming third baseman Gordon Beckham, and move Casey McGehee to first base. Quentin, Beckham, Hudson, and another prospect (aka 1B Christian Marrero) could be too good to pass up, even for a player like Fielder. I love kicking around trade possibilities. And as much as I would like to see Fielder stay in Milwaukee, it's just not logical. Just remember that the Twins rid themselves of Johan Santana, and they're still a contending team year in and year out.

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