Prince Fielder, Brewers agree on a $15.5 million deal for 2011

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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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.