Brewers still holding out hope for Fielder

If you’re one of those people that wants the Brewers to keep Prince Fielder, Buster Olney had a pair of tweets that might restore a little hope:

MILW last formal offer to Prince Fielder was 5/100, but as part of current talks, they’ve let it be known that they could stretch to 6/120. Keep in mind MILW/Fielder talks — it’s a fluid situation, and MILW is probably in play unless somebody offers in the 170-200 range.

So, there’s that. It’s important to note that the Brewers haven’t officially offered 6 years/$120 million, but Olney makes it seem like the Brewers at least have a plan as to how they could make such a deal work if it was accepted. At the start of the offseason, Doug Melvin said he would be meeting with Mark Attanasio, and one of the things they would discuss would be how to handle the Fielder situation. It’s just a guess, but it makes sense to think part of that discussion was establishing an absolute ceiling on how much they could spend to keep him while still fielding a somewhat competitive team.

A deal like that would take some creativity on Melvin’s part, though, since signing Fielder would likely mean cutting large amounts of payroll in other areas — even in the short-term. The Brewers may be able to stomach it in the short-term since an average annual value of $20 million would only be $5 million more than what they paid him in 2011, but as other players continue to get raises, he would be harder to fit into the payroll. Like it or not, the Brewers have limited resources. Would it really be worth keeping Fielder around if it meant giving up hope on keeping Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum, or even trading them this year to create some budget room? Are the Brewers willing to take a gamble and believe in their next wave of prospects, even if they aren’t as highly-regarded as the last wave that got them to this point?

I try to keep things objective here, but I think most baseball fans would think it would be cool to see Fielder stay in Milwaukee. Like Joe Mauer staying in Minnesota, it’d be a feel-good story. Whether or not it would be smart, though, is a different story. We’ve started to see the downside of the Mauer contract already in Minnesota. The Twins had a hard time staying competitive with Mauer hurt. Would the same happen to the Brewers if Fielder were to miss time?

Right now, though, it’s hard to see this news as anything but an example of negotiating through the press. The Brewers could be making it known that they’re still worth talking to (or, it could be a P.R. move to show fans they’re “trying”). Scott Boras could be floating this number to the press just before the Winter Meetings to show they’re willing to listen to all offers, not just the ridiculous $200 million that’s been previously rumored. Either way, it doesn’t seem like we should expect a signing anytime soon.