There are no offers on the table and no negotiations afoot — hell, Prince Fielder isn’t even eligible for free agency until the 2011 season is complete — but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Gary Howard is daydreaming about the Brewers locking him up all the same, building up to this:
So I figure a sweet, five-year, $100 million offer (even you can’t
afford seven, like his agent, Scott “Pay Me!” Boras, would prefer) with
incentives might, just might, get ‘er done. He’s not the “I” in team,
no; he’s just the T, the E, the A and the M . . . It’s just that – without any inside dope on his intentions – I
feel he would take a five-year deal at $20 million per to see what he
could do with the Brewers. Every great baseball player wants to be the
straw. And by anyone’s standards, Prince is just that for this Crew but
maybe not for another club, incentive enough to re-sign with Milwaukee.
I like the optimism, but the odds of the Scott Boras-repped Prince Fielder accepting a $100 million deal two years before he reaches the market is absurd. He’ll be 27 when he reaches free agency. The last under-30, Scott Boras free agent first baseman — a fellow by the name of Mark Teixeira — got $180 million. Sure, Teixeira is the better defender and may age better than the stout young man in Milwaukee, but you can bet your life on the fact that $180 million will be Fielder’s starting point.
Will he get that? Heck, I don’t know, but I think the odds of it happening are greater than the odds of him even responding to a $100 million offer at this early date.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.