Brewers to consider dealing Prince Fielder

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fielder_prince_090928.jpgMilwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he and general manager Doug Melvin are exploring every avenue to improve their team for next season, even if that means trading its best hitter, Prince Fielder.

“I don’t like thinking about the Milwaukee Brewers without Prince Fielder, I’ll tell you that,” Attanasio said. “It’s a challenge, because on the other side, if you concentrate too much on one player. … It’s not like basketball. If LeBron James or Michael Jordan is on your team, you can dominate. Prince could not have been more of a dominant player and we’re scuffling to get to .500 with the challenges we’ve had with starting pitching. What do you do?

Attanasio states that Fielder’s trade value will never be higher than it is right now, and if that were really the issue, he might be right. Fielder has put together arguably his best season, a .297/.406/.596 line with 43 homers and 137 RBIs. He’s walked more than 100 times for the first time in his career, and doesn’t turn 26 until May.

Has Fielder peaked? It seems unlikely for a guy that young, but concerns over his physique might change the formula a little bit, and Fielder’s next contract will be a big one.

And that’s really what it comes down to: Money.

Milwaukee was smart to lock up Ryan Braun, who won’t even make as much as $8.5 million until the 2013 season. Fielder, though, resisted following a similar path, opting instead to keep one year of arbitration eligibility after his current two-year deal expires (after 2010) before heading into free agency.

On the other hand, Fielder’s presence undoubtedly sells a lot of tickets (Milwaukee topped the 3-million mark in attendance for the second straight season) so you might want to keep him around a bit, patch some holes and hope for a rebound in 2010. Either way, it’s not an easy decision.

“If you play that player too much you have to surround him with good enough players to win. On the other hand, players like Ryan Braun and Prince, they come along only every 10 years or so. Believe me, I think Doug thinks about that every day.”

What would you do?

Tigers manager Gardenhire announces immediate retirement

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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DETROIT — Ron Gardenhire mostly maintained his jovial demeanor this season. As recently as Friday night, he was needling a reporter while discussing a strategic decision from the late innings.

Less than 24 hours later, Gardenhire announced his retirement. This year was taking more of a toll on the 62-year-old Detroit Tigers manager than he’d necessarily let on.

As much as he enjoyed managing, Gardenhire valued his health more.

“It’s been wonderful here, but I also know I have to take care of myself,” said Gardenhire, who was nearing the end of his third season with the Tigers. “When you come to the ballpark, and you’re stressed out all day, and your hands are shaking, that’s not fun. I’ve got grandbabies, I’ve got kids that I need to take care of, and my wife.”

Gardenhire’s announcement came in an abruptly scheduled video conference about an hour before Saturday night’s game against Cleveland. General manager Al Avila said he made a routine visit to Gardenhire’s office Saturday, when the manager told him about the decision.

Gardenhire, who has battled cancer and diabetes, recently missed a couple games because of stomach issues.

“This is tough. It’s a tough day for me. Didn’t expect it, tell you the truth, when I walked in,” Gardenhire said. “But I just know how I’ve been feeling lately, and I expressed that to Al, and elected to just go ahead and step down.”

A message of “Thank you, Gardy” was posted on the scoreboard at Comerica Park.

“On behalf of all of us with the Detroit Tigers, congratulations to Ron Gardenhire on a tremendous managerial career,” Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch said in a statement. “One of the best baseball men around, we’re fortunate to have had Gardy lead our team for the past three seasons, and during this rebuilding period. He has done a great job in shaping the future successes I know our organization will see.”

Bench coach Lloyd McClendon is taking over as manager for the rest of the season, which is scheduled to end Sept. 27. Detroit was 21-29 heading into Saturday’s game and was unlikely to make the postseason.

Gardenhire previously had a 13-year run with the Minnesota Twins that included six AL Central titles.

“I’d like to congratulate Gardy on one of the best managerial careers, really in major league baseball history,” Avila said. “His leadership and hard work over the last three seasons has put us in a position to get closer to our goal of bringing back winning baseball to Detroit.”

Gardenhire had to oversee a significant rebuild with the Tigers that included a 114-loss season in 2019.

“He took us through the toughest two years of the transition. This year, this third season, probably as tough as any, just because of the pandemic,” Avila said. “The COVID-19 over your head, all the new changes … the stress level was through the roof.”

Gardenhire’s surprise retirement came as the Indians were getting ready to play their 38th game without their manager, Terry Francona, who has been sidelined after undergoing surgery for a gastrointestinal issue and some blood clotting complications which followed the procedure.

The 61-year-old Francona, who is in his eighth year with Cleveland, still hopes to return before this season ends.

Whoever takes over the Detroit managerial job will be tasked with guiding the team through an important stage in its process. Pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal had a chance to get some experience in the majors this year, and other young players will be crucial over the next couple seasons.

Gardenhire took over for longtime Twins manager Tom Kelly and managed Minnesota from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039. Minnesota won the division six times in his first nine seasons at the helm, and he was American League Manager of the Year in 2010.

He was a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to the AL Central with the Tigers for the 2018 season. Detroit was 132-241 under Gardenhire.

Gardenhire played five seasons in the majors, all with the New York Mets, and was a light-hitting infielder in the 1980s.

“Always, you’ll miss baseball,” Gardenhire said. “You miss the game, but you miss the people in it, the coaches, the staff here. Those are the tough things, but I’m only a phone call away. … I won’t just go away totally. This is just a moment, I know I have to take care of myself right now and get myself back to where I need to be.

“I appreciate baseball for everything they’ve given me and my family, and it’s been a good career.”