Prince Fielder and the Brewers avoided arbitration today with a $15.5 million deal in what will be his last arbitration contract. The deal makes Fielder the highest-paid Brewer of all time, passing Zack Greinke, who has held the title for a couple of weeks.
Attention Reds fans who keep asking me why the team would agree to buy out Joey Votto’s arbitration years for $38 million while not getting any free agent years from him: this deal is the reason. If Votto had gone to arbitration for all three years, he’d easily exceed $38 million given the precedent set by Ryan Howard and Fielder’s arbitration deals. It gave the Reds cost-certainty and saved them several million dollars. That’s not nothing.
As for Fielder: the Brewers have loaded for bear this winter, Fielder has apparently lost some weight and he’s poised for free agency after the 2011 season. Anyone betting against a huge year by the guy had better be getting great odds.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.