By Drew Olson Special to Published May 17, 2008 at 5:38 AM

Welcome to Saturday Scorecard. We know you're pressed for time today, so we'll try to keep things short so you can prepare to watch the Brewers at Fenway and Big Brown at the Preakness.

When left fielder Ryan Braun signed a $45 million contract extension this week, many Brewers fans daydreamed about a similar deal for first baseman Prince Fielder.

Keep dreaming, folks.

They are both budding superstars, they are both 24 years old (Braun is six months older) but in terms of baseball's financial game Braun and Fielder are as different as T-bone steak and tofu.

There are two ways for baseball players to make gigantic sums of money: arbitration and free agency. Fielder is eligible for arbitration after this season and will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

Though he had a chance to qualify for "Super Two" loophole, Braun likely would have had to wait until after the 2010 season for his first foray into arbitration and until after 2013 for free agency.

What does all this mean?

Teams give multi-year contracts to young players in order to "buy out" years of arbitration and free agency. The Brewers would have to sign Fielder to a five-year deal to achieve the same effect they did with Braun's eight-year contract.

Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, is a hard-line negotiator who likes to expose his clients to the market at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, it's highly unlikely that Fielder would sign a five-year deal.

The Brewers could offer him three years to "buy out" the arbitration years, but there is no real benefit in that. Arbitration is kind of a "pay as you go" plan. By signing Fielder to a three-year deal, the Brewers could save some money in the long haul but they'd also expose themselves to risk if Fielder gets hurt or underperforms.

Once Fielder hits the open market, it would seem that the Brewers' chances of retaining him would be greatly diminished. Even with attendance of 3 million and increased broadcast revenues, the Brewers likely won't have as much cash to offer as teams in bigger markets. 

It's a fascinating situation. It's even more intriguing when you consider that the Brewers' top draft pick last year, Matt LaPorta, is a slugging first baseman-turned-outfielder who is considered a potential replacement for Fielder.

LaPorta's agent is, you guessed it, Scott Boras.

Financial planning

For the Brewers, one of the big benefits of signing Braun to a long-term deal was cost certainty. General manager Doug Melvin, who faces potential arbitration cases with Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Fielder and Rickie Weeks and others next season, knows how much Braun will make and can shape the rest of his payroll accordingly.

"That's a big part of this," Melvin said. "When you have so many players going to be entering into arbitration you don't know what your cost is going to be.

"For example, Ryan Howard with the Phillies, they were either going to pay him $10 million or $7 million but they didn't know that until the end of February. If you have three million dollars' difference on a player and a million dollars' difference on another player and a million dollars' difference on another player and you're trying to plan your roster not knowing what you're going to pay players, it does strap a little bit when you go to those winter meetings and you want to make a trade and acquire a player or acquire a free agent.

"Knowing that our middle of the order hitter is tied up, we know what those numbers are. We can sit there and stare at them and know exactly what that number is going to be for Ryan for the next eight years."

Braun said he hopes other players follow his lead. "I hope this starts a trend," he said. "It would be great if we could all play together for a while."

By the numbers

In case you missed it, here is the year-by-year breakdown of Braun's contract:

2008: $455,000 plus $2.3 million signing bonus
2009: $745,000
2010: $1 million
2011: $4 million
2012: $6 million
2013: $8.5 million
2014: $10 million
2015: $12 million

If Braun becomes eligible for salary arbitration after 2009 as a "Super 2" player, his base salaries will escalate:

2010: $3.5 million
2011: $5.5 million
2012: $7.5 million
2013: $9 million

Cinderella story: After 11 years in the minors, Mark DeFelice is ready to make his big-league debut with the Brewers this weekend at Fenway Park. DeFelice's story reminds me of the late Mike Coolbaugh, who waited a long time before making his debut with Milwaukee. The first day Coolbaugh arrived in the clubhouse, his teammates seemed more excited than he was. Players went out of their way to congratulate him and wish him well.

Sir Charles: I guess Mr. Barkley was right. He's not a role model. But, is anyone shocked that he owes a Las Vegas Casino nearly a half-million dollars?

On an unrelated note, did you know that Barkley's middle name is Wade? That makes his commercials with the former Marquette star even more funny.

Top of the class: Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper, a standout for the Brewers teams in the 1980s, has the highest lifetime batting average of any current major-league manager. Cooper hit .298 during his career, putting him ahead of Dodgers skipper Joe Torre, who hit .297. Torre, of course, can console himself with several World Series rings.

Branyan watch: Third baseman Russell Branyan belted three homers for Class AAA Nashville on Friday night, pushing his team-leading total to 11. Branyan is hitting .374. The Brewers, who need thump from the left side, should seriously consider giving him a call sometime soon.

Speaking of the Sounds, they have won 12 of 17 games after losing 18 of their first 23 to open the season.

Settling in: Every time we watch former Brewers infielder Jeff Cirillo on the FSN Wisconsin pre- and post-game shows, he looks more comfortable. He also looks like he's having a good time. Don't be surprised if the folks in Bristol call him up within the next year or two.

Case of the Crabbe: San Diego returned infielder Callix Crabbe to the Brewers' roster. Crabbe, selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings, hit .176 and made a crucial error during a recent loss in Atlanta. San Diego replaced him with Edgar Gonzalez, who happens to be the brother of standout first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

The rules of the Rule 5 draft stipulate that the team that picks the player pays the original club $50,000 and then has to keep the guy in the major leagues all year. If they want to send him to the minors, they have to offer him back to the original club. 

The Padres liked Crabbe and tried to work out a deal with the Brewers to keep him, but Milwaukee valued his versatility. Word is that Crabbe snagged a couple of autographed balls from future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux on his way out of the clubhouse.

Fresh start: It seems like yesterday that the Packers gagged away the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. This week, the team reassembles for organized team activities. The Aaron Rodgers era begins in full force.

Numbers crunch: Radio colleague Steve "The Homer" True made fun of Dodgers centerfielder Andruw Jones this week for being overweight and unproductive. That prompted me to compare Jones' career numbers with those of his teammate, second baseman Jeff Kent. The power production is pretty similar, but most people think Kent has a better chance to land in Cooperstown. Kent has a higher batting average, but Jones is a far superior defensive player.

New neighbors: How curious will Mequon and North Shore residents be when the Rams begin training camp at Concordia University?

Stay away: We didn't hear much Brett Favre comeback talk this week, which was refreshing. After watching New Kids on the Block try out a comeback on "The Today Show," we think it's probably a good idea for No. 4 to stay retired.

On the market: Tabloids indicate that Burlington native / Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has broken up with pop singer / actress Jessica Simpson. Maybe Romo will show up at the Chocolate Festival and hook up with a Wisconsin girl.

Much ado: We still think what the Patriots did was sleazy, arrogant and worth of both derision and punishment, but we also wouldn't have minded watching Geraldo Rivera report the "Spygate" story from Al Capone's vault.

Bold prediction: We're going to go way out on a limb and predict that Grafton's boys basketball team will win a couple more North Shore Conference games over the next few years. The Black Hawks, who were 1-41 in league play over the past six seasons, will make huge strides with Tom Diener at the helm.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.