First of all, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports editor Garry Howard must be living in a dreamworld if he thinks Prince Fielder is going to sign a 5-year, $100 million extension. I’ll eat one of my many Brewers hats if that happens. It’s going to take more money than that if you’re going to keep Fielder and Scott Boras off the free agent market. Judging from Howard’s editorial, I would imagine he wouldn’t mind. His piece gave off a “blank check” mentality: sign him at all costs, no matter what he asks for.
That’s where he loses me. I can get behind a column that says the Brewers should re-sign Fielder to extend their window of competitiveness. I can’t get behind a column that says the Brewers must do everything they can to keep Fielder in Milwaukee, even if it means paying a third of the payroll to two players.
Come back to reality, Garry. You don’t want that.
Would it be awesome to see Fielder and Braun mash homers at incredible rates for the forseeable future? Of course it would.
But you know what’s not awesome? Seeing our scrapheap pitchers give up just as many because we can’t afford to pay for any good pitchers. Seeing the Brewers struggle to contend as they rely on two players to carry the burden. Seeing Fielder struggle to stay in shape as he gets older. Seeing the Brewers fork over $20-$25 million a year to a player who may have seen his best years pass him by, and being unable to trade him.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the Brewers’ best bet is to trade Fielder for a collection of MLB-ready prospects. Fill the hole at first base by moving Mat Gamel across the diamond, or signing a stopgap until someone in the minors is ready to take over — finding someone to replace Fielder’s production is tough, sure, but first basemen who can put up solid power numbers are a dime a dozen. Adam LaRoche just signed a deal with Arizona that will pay him $4 million this season, and $8 million next season through a mutual option. You don’t need MVP-level offense from Fielder’s replacement, especially considering the offense provided at other positions.
By trading Fielder, you can also make the team better by dealing for young (that means cheap) starters who the team can control for quite a few years. You know how many the Brewers have right now? Two, maybe, and only Yovani Gallardo has shown an ability to be above-average.
Mark Attanasio loves winning, sure, but he’s also a businessman. He probably knows better than anyone else that the Brewers can’t creep towards a payroll of $100 million and still operate in the black. Signing Fielder to that kind of contract would be a nice P.R. move (like the $100 million offer to CC Sabathia), but it would be crippling in terms of the long-term health of the franchise. It’s just the reality of playing in Milwaukee — it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see anyone play their entire career with the Brewers, even Ryan Braun.
So what’s there left to do? Enjoy what we can of his remaining days in Milwaukee, and hope Doug Melvin can get a killing for him in a trade.