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?

Mad Dog Licks Boots

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Earlier this week Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported that the MLBPA and the league are heading back to the table more than two years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires following the 2021 season.

This had been hinted at for some time, as the union has shown clear displeasure at the current state of business, particularly with the free agent market. The league, one might assume, is happy with the current state of affairs, but it also has an interest in heading off potential strife or even the hint of a labor stoppage in the future. Moreover, there are priorities which have emerged on MLB’s part since the last CBA was signed that they’d love to advance — pace of play, etc. — so they have some incentive to talk as well. So, while it’s totally newsworthy that the sides are talking, it’s also quite understandable and not particularly controversial.

It’s also quite understandable that, given that this is a negotiation between parties in an adversarial position, there will be public comments from the principles which involve advocacy or even posturing on occasion. That’s part of the deal of any negotiation that holds public interest. So, when Tony Clark, for example, says something like “the system doesn’t work,” and “either we’re going to have a conversation now, or we’re going to have a louder conversation later,” which is what he told Kepner, it’s not really a controversial thing. Indeed, it’s expected.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo thinks it’s pretty controversial, however. The MLB Network host and talk radio legend took to the airwaves yesterday blasting Clark for not being more deferential to Rob Manfred who “was nice enough to extend him an olive branch.”  Russo likewise asked, rhetorically, what “Rob” must’ve thought when reading Clark’s quotes “over his cup of coffee, and bran muffin, on Madison Avenue, after his workout and all those things . . . his morning coffee, milk and two sugars by the way — Sweet and Low.”

He’s the Mad Dog, but he certainly licks boots here:

 

It’s amusing enough that Russo believes that Clark, Manfred’s counterpart and adversary, is supposed to be deferential and thankful for the mighty Manfred. It’s even more amusing, however, that he takes the tack of arguing that MLB has no real interest in negotiating now and is somehow merely throwing the union a bone or offering an olive branch. In saying this Russo, whether he realizes it or not, is accusing Manfred of bad faith, optics-only talks with the union. I don’t feel like Manfred thinks he’s doing that. And I don’t think Clark would be talking to him if he felt he was being patronized to either. Indeed, the dance of the last several months around all of this was, in part, to ensure that that was not the case.

I don’t know what Manfred thought about Clark’s comments on Tuesday, but I do wonder how he feels about being accused by an MLB Network employee of playing games like this. It might be enough for him to spit out his bran muffin and coffee. Cream and two sugars and all.