Fielder’s Future | Disciples of Uecker

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Fielder’s Future

By on July 13, 2010

“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.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Justin says: July 13, 2010

    Thanks for the post.

    I’m a huge Prince fan. I love the guy – his game, his personality, pretty much everything about him. I’m such a fan of his that I’ll continue to root for him in another uniform.

    The Brewers should not be willing to pay Fielder the price Boras wants for him. Paying huge money to a 1B who can hit but can’t field seems like a bad idea; Prince is a DH in the wrong league. I would much rather see a variety of roster moves made that would include trading Prince for high-value SP prospects. I don’t follow the MiLB closely enough to have players in mind, but I think it’s the route to go.

    Trading Prince doesn’t automatically destroy our line-up. For example, Lorenzo Cain can be brought up to play RF, Corey could move to LF, Braun to 1B. Even if Hart is also traded (which I think should be a top-priority for the Crew), then Gamel can be brought up to play 1B. If he performs to his career-projected numbers, and Cain takes over for Hart in RF, that’s still (potentially) a very good line-up. Add in the pitching prospects the Brewers would acquire in a potential Fielder trade, and the bat prospects in a Hart trade, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

    The Brewers can’t afford the deal that Boras wants for Prince, and Hart isn’t likely to live up to his current value. Why not trade both players away to get long-term value without taking a severe hit in the lineup (assuming Gamel and Cain both play to their projections)?

  2. Jon Williams says: July 13, 2010

    I think trading Fielder is a good idea for the Brewers. It sucks but the reality is that the Brewers can’t afford to make a mistake signing Fielder. I think they’d sign him at a rate like that if they believed he would maintain his value throughout the contract. But that seems unlikely and is certainly not a good bet. Especially when you have Braun and potentially Gamel that could take over at first and probably hit at a similar rate and play better defense.

    Unlike Justin who commented above, I would not trade Fielder in a deal where the Brewers received only minor leaguers. The Brewers need to receive not just potential talent but established and marketable talent in exchange for their slugger. For instance a trade to the Red Sox might bring a package fronted by Clay Buchholz.

  3. Sixto says: July 13, 2010

    Can anyone actually give Prince 5/$130 million though? I don’t think any other team could have made the offer that Teixeira got, and obviously the Yankees won’t be bidding on Prince at that price. Plus, there’s an off chance that Fielder becomes only the second-most desirable 1B on the market after Adrian Gonzalez (and an even more remote chance that Pujols doesn’t work out an extension with the Cardinals). If Boston wants to go to town they might spend their money on Gonzalez instead. Mets have Ike Davis, Tigers have Cabrera, Angels have Morales, Mariners have Smoak now, Dodgers might not have the payroll flexibility to bid. There just aren’t that many big market teams that need a 1B, and nobody is going to give Prince that much money to DH.

    My nightmare scenario is that the Brewers keep Fielder through 2011, let him leave as a free agent, Boras asks too much, Fielder never signs and the Brewers get screwed out of any draft picks. Ahhh!

  4. Rob says: July 14, 2010

    Both Chicago teams need a 1B. The Nats have yet to work out a deal with Dunn. So yes there are teams out there that can afford him.

  5. nictonjr says: July 16, 2010

    No way the Sox make a ‘package’ around Bucholz. They probably don’t do a Bucholz for Fielder straight up. If they were willing to they’d do it for A Gonzalez who can actually play a position…

  6. Travis says: July 18, 2010

    Fielder needs to go.

    And Harr needs to resign.Hart will sign cheap and long.Hart doesn’t want to get traded…even if that meant a run at a ring.He wants to stay in this POS town

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