“When you have a player that performs like Mark Teixeira, you have to look at Prince Fielder’s performance in comparison,” Boras said. “You want to know the value of a player? Take a look at it.”
That was Scott Boras talking to Tom Haudricort of the Journal-Sentinel.
For Brewers fans who hope to see Prince Fielder in a Brewer uniform beyond 2011, this is terrible news. If Boras values Fielder similarly to Mark Teixeira, that means he would seek something similar to the eight year, $180 million contract that Teixeira received from the Yankees last offseason.
I really don’t think, given Fielder’s body type, that any team will be willing to offer that many years. However, given Ryan Howard’s 5 year, $125 million extension, even a shorter deal would likely have a $20M or higher average annual value. That leads us to two questions. First, can the Brewers even afford that, and second, would it be in their best interests to sign Fielder to, say, a 5 year, $130 million deal.
The first answer isn’t exactly set in stone. On the one hand, the Brewers are clearing a ton of money next year – around 24 million dollars including arbitration raises. However, if they were to decide to extend Fielder, it would probably preclude the addition of a starting pitcher, which is likely a higher priority for Doug Melvin at this time. Not only that, but as Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo’s contracts start to escalate, it would be harder and harder to find room for Prince Fielder. Yes, the Brewers probably could afford a long term deal for Fielder, but it would require them to get very creative with their roster.
The second answer is complex in its own right. It would seem crazy at first to not want to lock up a player with the prodigious power of a Prince Fielder at age 26. However, there are concerns about Fielder’s body type, particularly as that relates to his defense. Fielder is just a butcher at first base. Over his career, UZR estimates that he has been a whopping 28 runs below average – something that’s very difficult to do in 4.5 seasons given how few chances a first baseman gets in a year.
Still, Prince can hit. He’s projected to be worth a 5 WAR player for the rest of this season and ostensibly for next season. That means he would be worth right around $20-22.5 million if the market remains steady at the $4-4.5 million per win range that it seems to have settled on.
That means that signing Prince to a 5 year, $130 million extension would probably be right around market value for his services, at least in year one. Depending on the market goes – if the value of a win starts inflating at roughly 5% a year, as it did before the recession – that could prove a bargain at the end. However, we have to consider the possibility of decline. Cecil Fielder was out of baseball at 32, as was Mo Vaughn, a player with similar power and a similar body type. The risk in this deal would be tremendous, and the Brewers aren’t the kind of organization that can handle an albatross contract like that – the Jeff Suppan deal effectively killed the Brewers playoff chances in 2010.
There is also the question of how much revenue that Prince brings in on his own, as he’s a tremendously marketable figure due to his excellent personality and his skillset. However, I’m not sure how easy it is to quantify that, if it is even significant.
The amount of hoops that the Brewers would have to jump through to retain Prince Fielder just makes it unrealistic, to me. This is a team that needs to build around young talent and team-friendly contracts such as the ones given to Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo. The chances of the team being completely hamstrung by a long-term deal for Fielder just make it too risky. If Fielder follows the path of his dad and other large-waistline sluggers, the Brewers franchise could be sunk for five years or more. As much as I want to see Fielder remain in a Brewers uniform, I would much rather see a competitive team on the field, and I think that is easier accomplished with Fielder elsewhere in 2012, if not by the start of 2011.