|Brewers Betting Big on Fielder||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 28, 2011
Milwaukee is a franchise that has proven repeatedly it isn't afraid to make the hard decisions. Once again the Brewers put winning, and valued a playoff appearance for the fans today, ahead of planning for the future.
They did it back in 2008, when they traded away four top prospects for pitcher CC Sabathia. It worked out to a degree -- the prospects so far haven't been great, and Milwaukee made it to the playoffs even if it didn't make it past the Phillies in the NLDS. The Brewers could have salvaged something by managing to keep Sabathia, but despite an all out effort he ended up picking New York in free agency.
They certainly hope that this time works better. Once again they traded for an ace pitcher, giving up some top prospects, but acquiring Zack Greinke wasn't a huge risk like Sabathia since he has another year left on his contract after this season. The risk this year is something which seems almost a certainty. Prince Fielder, the power hitting first baseman who the Brewers didn't trade earlier in the year will test free agency, and they could lose him for no more compensation than they got for Sabathia.
Well, that, and the playoff appearance their regular season play has already secured. Ideally this one works out better than the one Sabathia took them to. But how much better could it really work out?
Getting out of the first round would be a start. Getting past the Phillies, either in the first or second round, would be even nicer. Riding it all to the World Series wouldn't be the grand prize, but rather the penultimate one. Winning the series and resigning Fielder would be the grand prize.
Of course, win or lose, the Brewers still have a chance to sign Fielder to an extension. He hasn't had the best season of his career. He won't club 40 home runs this year and he won't finish with an average over .300. That probably won't hurt his overall value on the free agent market too much.
What will hurt it is that going into 2012 there will be fewer large market teams, since the Dodgers and Mets are in financial disarray, and that most of the richer teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers are already tied to big time first basemen.
The Cardinals have to try to re-sign Albert Pujols before they even think about Fielder, and while he'd be a nice consolation prize, he's not the one they want. That may only leave teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Mariners and Orioles, teams not ready to win or compete for postseason honors, offering Fielder a big contract.
That could impact where Fielder chooses to sign. His options certainly seem at least somewhat limited unless he's ready to become a full time DH in exchange for the boatload of money that will certainly be offered by some AL franchise. That offer may or may not be as good as what Milwaukee will offer, but the Brewers certainly be competitive when it comes to contract -- just like they intend to be in this year's playoffs.
They've risked a lot for this moment. They emptied a good portion of the farm system, and they've gambled on losing one of the biggest stars (both figuratively and literally) in the game for a chance to win the World Series.
Maybe they can win it all, maybe they won't. No matter what, Milwaukee has gone to bat for its fans and taken some swings for the fences in a game where it often seems that the little guy and the mid market teams aren't supposed to be able to compete.
That makes them well worth rooting for.