Hello, and welcome to the Roundtable, where some of BCB's more esteemed and well-known contributors (present author excluded, unless you were trolling around the site when Trent Durrington and Victor Santos were on the team) weigh in on the team's most pressing issues. In our inaugural Roundtable post, -JP- and BrewHaHeather offer their thoughts on what the Brewers should do about Prince Fielder. Try to re-sign him? Let him walk? Trade him if (perish the thought) the team falls out of contention? The Roundtable begins after the jump!
What I think will happen is exactly what we think will happen. Fielder will be offered arbitration, turn it down, and then the Brewers put out the same offer as before. It won't be enough, and Fielder signs with another team.
Now, for what should happen. It hurts to say this, but honestly, I wouldn't even offer him the contract. Just offer him arbitration and take the picks. I can't imagine what life without Fielder will be like, but I'm going to find out next season. Mat Gamel is going to have some big shoes to fill, and there's only a small chance he's able to match what Fielder has done.
Looking at the contract situation for the Brewers, I just don't think it's possible. I went to Cot's Baseball Contracts to pull payroll information, and here's what I found. As of right now, I'd estimate the Brewers are going to have a payroll of around $78 million just for the players they are going to keep under contract or have to resign through arbitration. This is assuming the Brewers don't resign any free agents and even non-tender some arbitration eligible players. Here's the arbitration situation as it is today:
Year 1 Casey McGehee, Nyjer Morgan, George Kottaras, Mitch Stetter Year 2 Manny Parra Year 3 Shaun Marcum, Kameron Loe, Sean Green, Wil Nieves, Carlos Gomez
I'm assuming Sean Green and Wil Nieves are non-tendered, and Manny Parra and Mitch Stetter are under consideration (though I'm counting them in here). I'd say they take up about $18 million of the payroll between the eight that are tendered. Add on to that around $57.5 million for the guaranteed contracts (Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo) and the buyout for Yuniesky Betancourt. Plus, there's the players under 3 years experience that will take up a few million (John Axford, Chris Narveson, Zack Braddock, Jonathan Lucroy, Brandon Kintzler, Mat Gamel). That's a lot of money already, and they would still need to cover a shortstop, backup infielders (with at least one for security at first base), another backup outfielder, and around three or four bullpen pitchers. Some of that will be internal, but with the state of the farm system, there will be the need to sign at least a few free agents. Plus, with the state of the farm system's pitching, I'd look at trying to resign Greinke or Marcum later. However, I worry that Greinke's price will be too high and Marcum is too much of an injury concern to commit to long term.
The argument that comes up is that Fielder pays for himself with the fans that are drawn in. While the Brewers may lose some fans if Fielder leaves, I don't think the impact of him staying is worth it. There's still a lot to like about this team beyond him, and the fans will keep coming. The Brewers already have too much in guaranteed contracts sitting around. They have to keep some payroll flexibility. It just doesn't make sense to try and keep Fielder and destroy the limited maneuvering room they have left.
Personally, I don't that they should try to make a serious play at resigning Fielder. I'm sure he'll be good for another few years, and I'd love to have him in Milwaukee for those years, but I don't think he'll age well. I see him being worth the kind of money he'll ask for for about half of the life of the contract, and then tailing off. I'd offer him something like 5/$20mil, maybe up it to six years, but nothing more. I see DM offering him something similar, obviously just as a gesture. Unless they expand payroll greatly, there's no room for him anyway. With contracts for Braun, Weeks, Hart, Gallardo all getting more expensive, there's no room. Hopefully we'll be able to add Marcum and Greinke to that list, although the latter is much more unlikely.
However Gamel does over the next few months really has no influence on opinions of what they should do with Fielder. There's no way that Gamel will ever match the production that Fielder puts up. I might be alone in this but I don't have a ton of confidence in Gamel anyway. He hasn't produced in his chances at the ML level yet (yes, yes, I know, small sample size, not consistent playing time, blah blah blah; I'll have confidence in him when he does something in Milwaukee, not just in Nashville).
My first thought is to do what -JP- did, head over to Cot's. We already have $62 million committed to six players: three pitchers (Greinke, Gallardo, Wolf) plus Hart, Braun and Weeks. If Prince is really going to take in $25 million a season, that will give us all of seven players, and we're at $87 million. Throw in the more than $5 million for giving Yuni and F-Rod their walking papers, and we're already paying more than the team ever has in salary. For seven guys. I don't think we could free up enough money through restructuring contracts to make re-signing Prince even a serious possibility. (Though, interestingly, it's been suggested that the Brewers might be a destination for Jose Reyes, the line of thought being Reyes + Gamel would be better and cheaper than Yuni + Prince. I don't think we'll have the money for that, either.)
How bad would it be if we don't re-sign Prince? Even if he ends up in the NL Central, it wouldn't be a disaster, though it might feel like it. For me, the key would be Greinke and Marcum, both of whom become free agents after next season. I think if we can get one of them to re-sign, coinciding with the arrival of our minor league talent, then maybe we'll be able to keep our playoff window propped open a few more years.
Oh, and next season, our regular first baseman won't be Gamel --- it'll be Kotsay. Remember, you heard it here first.