Prince’s Swan Song?

Even as the Brewers have faded from playoff contention, Prince Fielder has continued to mash the baseball. He’s become more selective at the plate this season, as his next walk will match last year’s total in 150 fewer plate appearances. He’s hitting .300 for the first time since reaching the big leagues. His .419 wOBA is better than the mark he posted in 2007 when he launched 50 home runs. His UZR is -1.5, the best of his career.

At 25-years-old, Fielder is showing strong signs of improvement, and he was already a good player. His season might be so good, however, that he could be playing his way right out of Milwaukee.

Unable to come to terms on a long term contract last winter, the Brewers bought out two of his arbitration seasons with a two-season pact that paid him $7.5 million this year and will pay him $10.5 million next year. After the 2010 season, he’ll have five years of service time and be eligible for arbitration for the last time before hitting free agency after the 2011 season.

So, the Brewers essentially control his rights for two more seasons. $10.5 million is a bargain for a player of Fielder’s caliber, but that’s going to go way up in 2011 – he could easily break records for an arbitration award with another strong season as a 26-year-old next year. He’s looking at something like a $15 to $20 million payday in 2011 before he hits free agency and commands a massive contract.

$25 to $30 million for two years of Fielder is a good deal, but considering their infield depth and holes elsewhere on the roster, it might be in the Brewers best interest to field offers for their star slugger. Even without Fielder, they’d have Mat Gamel, Rickie Weeks, Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, and Casey McGehee as infield options for 2010, and Felipe Lopez is certainly making a strong impression since coming over in trade.

Gamel’s defense at third has never been considered a strong point, and McGehee’s strong season plus the surplus of middle infielders gives the Brewers a lot of options at the hot corner if they shifted Gamel across the diamond. Fielder could certainly command a strong return, bringing in the kind of starting pitching help the team could use behind Yovanni Gallardo.

Trading a star player coming off a disappointing season is never an easy sell to a fan base, but given the parts that are currently in place in Milwaukee, it may very well be the best idea. Brewers fans should enjoy the rest of Fielder’s 2009 season – it might be their last chance to watch him play every day.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
6 years 9 months ago

He’s become the second most feared hitter in the NL, and maybe in baseball. It’s going to be very hard to sell tickets if they trade him.

Davidceisen
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Davidceisen
6 years 9 months ago

Pujols, Hanley, Utley > Prince

David A
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David A
6 years 9 months ago

it depends on the situation, or what is meant by “feared.” i would definitely rate Hanley and Utley higher than Prince for all-around offense, but with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, where a home run can make the difference between a win and a loss, i “fear” Prince more than them.

Alex Poterack
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6 years 9 months ago

Also, I wouldn’t list Hanley and Utley as necessarily better hitters than Prince; they’re definitely better all-around players when you factor in position and defense, but they have about the same RoS wOBA ZiPS projection.

eh
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eh
6 years 9 months ago

Pujols, Hanley, Utley < Prince—in the eyes of a box of boca burgers….

pr
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pr
6 years 9 months ago

Alex, taking defense into consideration hurts Hanley’s value as an overall player, not helps.

Mark Attanasio
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Mark Attanasio
6 years 9 months ago

I’ve been saying this for years about Fielder.

The team could actually become better by trading him away for pitching. Fans have short memories, if any at all.

Red Sox need a player like him. Package Lars Anderson, Michael Bowdon and a few others to make it worth the Brewers while, and by 2011 they will have forgotten how bad the team is this year, and that hatred for losing him will be replaced by joy of perennial playoff appearances.

the artist formerly known as (sic)
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the artist formerly known as (sic)
6 years 9 months ago

Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden + castoffs aren’t going to get it done. You’re going to need a better pitching prospect than that.

Doug Melvin
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Doug Melvin
6 years 9 months ago

Boss, we can get more.

Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
6 years 9 months ago

I’ve been following Bowden really closely… not as good as they hoped. If he’s really nothing more than a 4th starter, and some scouts have felt that was all he was ever going to be, then I’m not sure the Red Sox have the prospects.

My dark horse… Baltimore. They have money, they have lots of pitching prospects. Really great ones. In fact, so many that they can’t actually start them all. They will need to add a real honest to god power bat if they want to compete. With Fielder, that would be a very interesting team.

scott
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scott
6 years 9 months ago

They’ve got money, too, which ultimately may be the most important.

Not to mention a spot aptly titled designated hitter for Mr. Prince.

Matt B.
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Matt B.
6 years 9 months ago

Toronto would be a great fit, for both teams. Toronto is loaded with talented (young) starting pitching and are offense craved at 1b/dh (apologies to Overbay and Randy Ruiz). If Toronto would open it’s relatively deep pockets for the pending contract, it could be a good move.

Bill
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Bill
6 years 9 months ago

I doubt that Baltimore would trade for him until they feel that they are ready to compete with the three headed monster. But, yeah if Baltimore’s pitching develops as they project, they will have the surplus arms to swing a deal. Judging by what they offered Tex, money will not be an issue.

David A
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David A
6 years 9 months ago

I agree the team desperately needs pitching but I think this is a really tough call. Fielder makes that lineup so much better. Milwaukee is currently 4th in the NL in runs, but without him I wonder if they are even in the top ten. I think you’d need massive improvement from the pitching staff to justify the loss. You would need another Gallardo, basically, PLUS a second 2 WAR pitcher. I wouldn’t count on that happening.

Alex Poterack
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6 years 9 months ago

Yeah, as a Brewers fan this is more or less how I feel about it. On one hand, they’re going to need to trade him at some point, and his value will probably never be higher than it is right now; on the other hand, I just don’t know if they can get enough of a return to justify it. The big question marks are what sort of production Gamel can put up (assuming he gets slotted in at 1B), and what sort of return they can get for Fielder, in particular what sort of pitching they can get.

Jordan B
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Jordan B
6 years 9 months ago

As a Brewers fan, this is kind of a tough subject for me. For one, I don’t see Gamel’s bat being good enough to play 1B (he’s probably a .300/.370/.500 player at best, with about 20 HRs). That’s great production from a 3B, but that .870 OPS would put him 15th amongst first basemen this year.
Then, there’s the whole issue of fan loyalty. The Brewers probably have one of the most fickle fan bases in the league. Trading away our #1 marketing tool could be suicide on attendance, especially if we don’t contend the following year.
Plus, I see 2010 and 2011 as our ultimate years of contention, and you can’t just trade away your best player as the team is ready to contend. We’re really only a solid starting pitcher (aka J.J. Hardy) and a couple bullpen arms from contending (and a new pitching coach, of course). A rotation of Gallardo, Parra, Bush, Suppan, and whoever we can get for Hardy isn’t really that bad. Then you consider we have guys like Escobar, Salome, Lucroy, and Gamel that are ready to play up in the majors, and we look pretty good going into next year. I’d say if we trade him, it’s going to be either prior to the 2011 season, or at the deadline that year.

Just wondering, what do you guys think Prince could fetch for the Brewers?

The Fonz
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The Fonz
6 years 9 months ago

I agree whole-heartedly on Gamel, though I think it will be a miracle for him to get up to .300; I just don’t think he will ever get that good of a handle on big-league pitching. He’s not selective (which of course isn’t the death-knell…ahem…Braun), but he’s also not quite blown us away at the two highest levels. The speed is a complete fiction (not that the Brewers run much anyway), and the defense, of course, is a minus as is and you hate to put a poor-hitting, 20 homer guy at either corner if you don’t have to.

I really think the Brewers would stand to gain by shipping Gamel out as a prospect, as they really don’t have a great spot for him. Teams were looking at Hardy, and he and Gamel could’ve fetched a #2 or #3 starter.

I agree on waiting with Prince; we just don’t know how next year will shake out, and making the playoffs is an economic boon. I think Prince would fetch a boatload of prospects…the Cleveland Indians have a couple of excellent pitching prospects(Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Rondon) and the Crew could get Michael Brantley back (they need a speedy, set-the-table outfielder). A guy like Prince could fetch a teams three (or even four) top prospects, possibly. The only downside is that they’ll probably need to get a plug-in player to sell the deal to the fans.

TJ
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TJ
6 years 9 months ago

it would be nice to see another fielder anchoring the tigers offence, but he would have to DH if we traded for him

Travis L
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Travis L
6 years 9 months ago

Prince’s situation in terms of fan reaction will be similar to the adrian situation in San Diego.

nick
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nick
6 years 9 months ago

They need to make a huge offer to keep him in Milwaukee long term this offseason. If he says no then the Red Sox will surely be interested. Packaging Prince and Hardy for Casey Kelly, Lars, Bowden (he may not have a high ceiling but he’d definitely be in the brewers rotation next year), Bard, Navarro and Reddick seems fair. The Brewers then have an excellent young, reasonably priced core to build around with these prospects plus Gamel, Braun, Alcides, and Gallardo. They then have some money freed up to get a pitcher ie Bedard or Harden on a nice base salary plus incentives type deal

rw23
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rw23
6 years 9 months ago

Not sure the Red Sox would trade half their farm system for a DH and JJ Hardy. As a Brewers fan though it should be pretty clear that pitching is the problem, and if they want to win trading Prince is one of only a few options. There just isn’t any pitching help in the high minors for Milwaukee. If some feelings get hurt, who cares? Milwaukee fans will support a successful team and decisions made for sentiment do not lead to success.

nick
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nick
6 years 9 months ago

They seemed willing to do it for Adrian Gonzalez. If the Red Sox fail to reach the playoffs, there could be some dramatic changes and getting Prince and Hardy while moving V-Mart to C full time would certainly constitute dramatic. The Sox figure to get picks for Wagner as well and can spend to restock the system within two years and it’s not like there’s a hole in that roster that really needs to be addressed with that trade. I’m not saying it’s likely just saying it’s plausible for both teams to have a dialogue about a prince + hardy discussion

cstt75
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cstt75
6 years 8 months ago

What about Papelbon and Bucholtz for Fielder (+/- Hardy included)? That would seem pretty fair, and might make sense if Dice-K shows something to end the season and the Brewers want to make the most of Braun’s prime? If the Brewers then signed say, Jon Lackey, nothing spectacular but very consistently good, they could be a favorite for the division in a year or 2. The Red Sox get an alternate DH/1B, Hardy could spell Youk at 3B and allow a platoon at 1B between Youk/VMart/Fielder and keep everyone in the lineup for the most part.

Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
6 years 9 months ago

Tillman, Bergesen, and Brandon Snyder might be enough to get it done. I still don’t think that’s good compensation, but it’s one great prospect, one very good 3rd/4th guy, and one good prospect. That would be more than what the Twins got for Santana.

Nick
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6 years 9 months ago

That would be a ridiculous return for the Brewers.

Marlow
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Marlow
6 years 8 months ago

Ridiculous good or ridiculous bad? Because I think I’m on the same page with you, but I want to be 100% certain.

Pat
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Pat
6 years 9 months ago

They need to either open up the wallets and sign a very good pitcher, or trade Fielder or others for some pitching, because the way the team is constructed now, they won’t win and it’s not getting easier. I don’t think they have many starting pitching prospects in the pipeline so they need to stock the farm. Gallardo and a bunch of #5 starters won’t cut it.

I see the Giants as a good fit but I don’t think they’d give up Bumgardner which they’d have to do to get him. It may be tough to swing a trade and get the kind of pitching they need, but it’s worth a shot to listen .

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 9 months ago

Remember in Moneyball how Michael Lewis described Prince Fielder as “too fat even for the A’s”?

Whoops.

MU789
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MU789
6 years 9 months ago

Except he seems to get bigger every year. If I were to trade for Fielder I would always worry that he’d come to camp bigger than some NFL linemen and lose it the way Mo Vaughn did.

I’d be curious if there are reliable numbers on what he has weighed each year.

But right now he is as dangerous as anyone in baseball.

jason
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jason
6 years 8 months ago

He was pretty large in 2008, but he lost weight this year.

MPC
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MPC
6 years 9 months ago

So a front office made a mistake in their evaluation of a player. Shocking. Never happens.

Mark Attanasio
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Mark Attanasio
6 years 9 months ago

Thtas the thing/problem for the Brewers…

Any equal value trade the Brewers could make involving mlb ready, top of the rotation pitching, would bankrupt the contra teams farm system most likely. Any team that has the talent in the minor leagues to land Fielder definitely drools over the prospect of landing him, but can you mortgage that much on the future of your franchise on one player who could very well eat his way out of the game in 3 years?

Brewers have 3 options: 1) make some ridiculous offer to keep him and wind up being the Reds post Griffey or Rangers post ARod, 2) trade him for less value that what he is worth in prospects, or 3) just hold on as long as they can and get 2 measly draft picks for him.

Not a very enviable position for a small market team.

The Fonz
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The Fonz
6 years 9 months ago

The Brewers have never been in an enviable position. And the best part is that the Brewers put themselves in these positions by a GM that settles with a team that’s “supposed” to be good instead of perpetually paying attention to depth in the minors. A team with as weak of a rotation as the Brewers had at the beginning of the year (and we all knew it) should never be so bereft of contingency plans. No offense to Mike Burns, but we were set to fail this year.

Marlow
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Marlow
6 years 8 months ago

+1

Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
6 years 8 months ago

Another problem with Prince is that if they don’t trade him now, and he gets closer to free agency, he rapidly loses his value.

And what are you really getting back if you trade him before the 2010 season? Nick said my proposal would be shockingly low and I completely agree, but gauging the market it’s becoming clear that in an effort to maximize profits (by keeping payroll low) that all the mid market teams (maybe not the recently spend now White Sox) value their prospects as much, or even more than their veterans. I mean what did the Phillies really give up for Lee? Does anyone believe Marson is going to be a legit replacement for VMart? Speaking of VMart what did they get for him? A 4th starter?

These days everyone is looking at the Bedard and Tex deals and doing what they can to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them. Who can blame them? Can you imagine what Feliz would do to a NL lineup? Any chance Seattle would like to have Adam Jones back? That they are doing it under team control makes it so much worse. I wonder if we are reaching a time soon where top 3 prospect just don’t get moved no matter what veteran is coming back in return.

tonyei31
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tonyei31
6 years 8 months ago

We made their pitch with CC last year. We lack pitching depth in the upper tiers of the minors (and have for awhile) and that has been our issue this year as well. I do think before Jack Z left he really started to address this and Seid has continued.

However when you get down to the lower minors we have quite a bit of talent. Peralta, Braddock, Wooten, Odorizzi, Heckathorn, Arnett, Jeffress, in 2 years we will have some nice impact players and some depth in their pitching in the upper minors and in the majors.

I do believe that Fielder may end up in a Red Sox uniform for a very nice package centered around Bucholtz and Bowden. Realistically, a package of Bucholtz, Bowden, Anderson and others for Fielder and others is more than a remote possibility and more than fair value.

It makes sense to trade Prince this year and shift Gamel to 1st and/or go after Nick Johnson in the offseason.

What we really need to do is get another ‘diamond in the rough’ like we did with McGehee this year. These are the type of pickups we don’t give Melvin enough credit for. Podsednik turned into Carlos Lee. Coffey will be our closer next year. Turnbow gave us 1 and 1/2 years of top 5 closing skills.

Melvin, as long as he continues to thrive with these pickups can afford and should trade Prince Fielder. It will make the ‘fairweather bandwagon’ fans ticked off but these are also the same morons that don’t understand the budgetary constraints of the brewers and simply do not understand baseball.

It is also important for the crew to keep Hardy down till September 1st to increase his trade value as he will have 2 arby years left to whoever the brewers trade him to in the offseason.

tonyei31
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tonyei31
6 years 8 months ago

Ed,

You have a great point of prospect value. I think that is the reason the Red Sox would not part with Bard. I do believe if we traded Hardy and Prince to the Red Sox we could get Bucholtz, Anderson and Bowden. That to me would make more than logical sense and be fair both ways. I don’t think I would be, in that proposal, ‘undervaluing’ their prospects or ‘overvaluing’ the return for the Red Sox.

tonyei31
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tonyei31
6 years 8 months ago

wow nick are you overvaluing Hardy and Prince in a deal to the Red Sox.

If that package were available Prince would already be wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Pedro Attanasio
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Pedro Attanasio
6 years 8 months ago

Fielder will be traded during the winter meetings. SF is our target. Cain + prospect (#1 Baumgartner, #2 Posey). Cain won’t be signed LT because of Linsecum and Zito (ouch) is already too much for the rotation. Fielder is perfect for McCovey Cove.

At 1B Gamel (cry) or sign retread and wait for Lawrie in 2011.

Timmah Lincecum
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Timmah Lincecum
6 years 8 months ago

No way the Giants part with Posey. He is the offensive equivalent, prospect wise, of Lincecum. They wont part with MadBum for the same reason. Cain, Ishikawa, and someone they dont have in their system does it. Problem is the Giants dont have that extra piece that they are willing to part with to land him.

Brewers are in a bad spot. The Red Sox arent going to give up their #1 pitching and hitting prospects for a guy they can just go and sign in 2 years.

tonyei31
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tonyei31
6 years 8 months ago

Pedro,

No way can we pull Cain and Baumgartner for Fielder. You are way undervaluing what Cain offers and Baumgartner’s projections. That is another deal that if it was there would have been jumped on. With that said if SF offered that deal Melvin should lose his job if he doesn’t accept. Prince ‘isn’t worth’ that amount of pitching though, at least with this economy and outlooks/projections.

Barry
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Barry
6 years 5 months ago

I agree with a number of the comments on this thread regarding the Red Sox looking at Prince Fielder. The Sox have over $65 million coming off of the books following the 2010 season and $31 million coming off of the books following the 2011 season due to expiring contracts and player owed money despite not being on the roster. If Fielder is targeted which I think he is and the Brewers are looking to deal: The Sox will make the following offer: Casey Kelly, Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson and Michael Exposito. They will offer Fielder a 7-year deal for $27 million aav taking him to his age 35 year. Or, the Sox will wait to the 2011 free agent class when the following are all free agents: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, and Lance Berkman where it will cost less in terms of Type A draft picks and $20 – $30 million aav. This group of 1B’s is the reason why they had a baseline on a contract offer for Teixeira.

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