With the Chicago Cubs trading for Anthony Rizzo yesterday, another possible suitor for former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder has apparently gone by the wayside. Three of the teams rumored to be leading the charge for Fielder, the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Washington Nationals, aren’t exactly big markets and contenders (though the Nationals are knocking at the door). With no immediate market for Fielder, would the best course of action for him to be to return to Milwaukee on a one-year deal?
The Brewers payroll situation isn’t exactly dire. They currently have $62.7 million committed to payroll, with arbitration hearings for Shaun Marcum (who should get around $5 million) and Francisco Rodriguez (probably about $5 million as well) the only major stumbling blocks in front of them. Milwaukee has five other arbitration eligible players, but combined, they’ll probably get in the neighborhood of $7 million. That puts Milwaukee right around the $83.6 million they spent on payroll last year. In 2010, Milwaukee’s payroll was $90.4 million. If owner Mark Attanasio wants to put a championship contender on the field for Greinke & Marcum’s possible final season in Milwaukee, increasing payroll to re-sign Fielder would be a good option. The Brewers finished seventh in baseball in attendance in 2011, and a return for Fielder around this team could push them into the top five.
But what exactly would Prince require? He made $15.5 million in 2011, so a salary around $18 million would probably be acceptable on a one year deal. That would push Milwaukee’s payroll close to $100 million, which might be too much for Attanasio to handle. But with reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun more than likely being forced to sit out the first 50 games of the season, the Brewers could be forced into a hole with no way to escape after the season’s first two months. Without Braun and Fielder, the team’s offensive star would be third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who while a good hitter, isn’t a superstar capable of carrying a team. Their pitching staff, with Greinke, Marcum and Yovani Gallardo, is good, but not at the level of Philadelphia’s, who can get away with not having a phenomenal hitter in their lineup.
Furthermore, while a one year deal might not be what Prince desires at this point in time, it could help his stock for the 2012 offseason. After this season, the financial messes in both Los Angeles and New York could be cleaned up, and while both teams have young first basemen on their teams, neither has the ceiling of Fielder. In fact, the Dodgers could be a perfect situation for Fielder after 2012 (but not this offseason), due to incumbent James Loney being a free agent after this season. They’d have a hole at first base, and by that time, they’d probably have a more solid ownership situation in order to give Fielder a multi-year deal.
If Fielder desperately wants that multi-year offer this offseason, he’d have to settle for a team like Seattle or Baltimore. Prince would be the star of Seattle’s offense, with no supporting cast around him, and he’d probably be DHing to help his health. In Baltimore, the same situation would arise, except for the fact that Baltimore doesn’t even have the pitching that Seattle does. Washington would be a good situation for him, but I have doubts in my mind that the Nationals would sign Fielder with Jayson Werth’s contract getting to the outrageous level starting in 2014, and Ryan Zimmerman not getting an extension yet. Oh, and the team already has Adam LaRoche under contract for $8 million in 2012. So hey….there’s another possibility for Fielder after 2012: Washington again, with more money to play with.
The Brewers seem like the best match for Fielder at this point in time. If Prince wants to win in 2012, I’d reach out to the Brewers and see what they could do for me. Alternatively, if I were the Brewers and I wanted to win in 2012, I’d reach out to Fielder. It seems like a great match knowing what we know today.