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Would Fielder opt for security with Brewers?
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The Brewers probably would not balk at such a number for their first baseman — they offered left-hander CC Sabathia a five-year, $100 million contract before losing him as a free agent.
But would Fielder take it?
John Boggs, the agent for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, has said that if his client became a free agent, their goal would be Mark Teixeira's eight-year, $180 million contract.
Scott Boras, the agent for Fielder, surely has a similar idea in mind.
Gonzalez is a superior defender to Fielder. But Fielder owns the higher career OPS-plus — that is, his OPS adjusted to his park and league.
Boras almost always prefers that his high-profile clients establish their values on the open market. His meeting with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash on Wednesday sounded rather preliminary, judging from Fielder's account to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Still, certain dynamics actually work in the Brewers' favor:
- The first-base market could be flooded when Fielder becomes a free agent after the 2011 season — Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Lance Berkman also are eligible to hit the market that winter.
One or more of those players, starting with Pujols, could sign contract extensions before then. Fielder, who turns 26 on May 9, is easily the youngest of the group. But even if Fielder was in
competition with say, just Howard and Berkman, he might not get the contract he desired.
- The Yankees, who are set with Teixeira, will not be among the teams in need of a first baseman. The Red Sox, who could trade for Gonzalez and sign him to a new deal, also might be out of the mix.
Removing the two biggest-spending teams from the bidding would automatically depress the market for Fielder and other free-agent first basemen.
True, the Phillies might need to replace Howard. The Mariners would figure to be in play — their general manager, Jack Zduriencik, was the Brewers' scouting director who drafted Fielder.
Maybe the Cubs would jump in. Maybe the Dodgers would, too, if they had a new owner.
But again, the demand might not meet the supply.
- The trend toward run prevention could work against Fielder, who rates as an average defender at best in most of the advanced defensive metrics.
The Brewers do not see Fielder becoming another Mo Vaughn; he is too proud. Like Howard, Fielder has improved his defense. He also played all but four innings last season.
Still, he will need to keep working hard to fight off the run prevention police.
- Fielder appeared to call the shots when Boras negotiated his current two-year, $18 million contract, which covered his first and second years of arbitration.
That deal was relatively club-friendly. Going year-to-year would have ensured that Fielder earned a higher salary in his second year and set him up for an even bigger score in his third. But he evidently wanted security.
And he might want it again.
If the Brewers made Fielder an offer in the five-year, $95 million range, their approach would not be unlike the one the Rockies took with left fielder Matt Holliday when they tried to buy him out of free agency.
The Rockies offered Holliday a four-year, $72 million extension with a fifth-year club option that could have increased the total value of the deal to $84 million. They might have gone to five years, $90 million guaranteed.
Holliday rejected the deal, then got traded twice before signing a seven-year deal with the Cardinals with a present-day value of about $113 million. The Rockies did not offer him a no-trade clause; the Cardinals did. But his present-day average salary of just over $16 million is less than what the Rockies initially proposed.
Hey, Holliday is not about to complain — he wound up in a great city with a great contract. But was the whole thing even necessary? He was happy in Colorado, just as Fielder is happy in Milwaukee.
If you're Prince, looking into the future, maybe there is no need to go down any other path.