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Can Brewers really afford Prince Fielder?

Dave Begel on the the ultimate disposition of Milwaukee's large first baseman:

    The question that faces us is whether Prince Fielder is too big for the Milwaukee Brewers.

    There is, of course, no simple answer to that question. But a look at the complex factors that lead to an answer has to begin with what you think about the Milwaukee Brewers.

    --snip--

    If you think they are a team that should contend every year and expect that they will always be in the hunt for a playoff berth, then you say of course you have to sign Fielder. Both Braun and Fielder are better when they are both in the lineup.

    But if you believe the Brewers are trying to catch lightning in a bottle and need a minor miracle to win a World Series against the big boys, then you say it's okay to trade Fielder. God knows what you could get for him, but it would certainly be a lot of talent.

    Now, I wouldn't be surprised if the Brewers brass tried to sign Fielder, no matter how much it takes. They want people to think they are one of the big boys, too.

    But they aren't. And unless they do something spectacular this year, I think this team gets a lot closer to the World Series without Prince Fielder in the lineup.

Frankly, this seems obvious to me.

Fielder's listed at 5'11" and 270 pounds. He turns 26 this spring. His first big multi-year contract is going to run into his early 30s. Does anyone really see Fielder as a premier player when he's 30, 31? In the National League, where you have to play a little defense every so often?

Hey, anything's possible. But I will submit that there's never been a player in the majors who was built like Fielder and enjoyed a long and productive career. Which doesn't mean it can't be done. I just don't think it's somthing to count on, when your franchise plays in the smallest media market in the majors (or second smallest; Milwaukee's essentially tied with Cincinnati).

There's something else to consider: Fielder's current two-year deal expires after this season, and he'll be due a significant raise in 2011. If the Brewers trade him now he'll be more valuable to his new club and Milwaukee will save something like $25 million.

Of course the big problem is that they'd essentially be announcing to the world, and more relevantly their fans, that they're punting 2010. Even if they're not, really. With Casey McGehee, deservedly or not, slotted as the Brewers' every-day third baseman, Mat Gamel is slotted for reserve duties, which is odd only because Gamel's quite likely a better player than McGehee.

But McGehee is going to play, and while he's on third base there's no obvious reason why Gamel couldn't give the club decent production at first base. He doesn't have Fielder's power -- few humans do -- but he'd hit 25 homers and get on base regularly enough, and he'd probably get to more grounders than the big guy.

In the short term, trading Fielder would probably cost the Brewers three or four wins. In the long term, it might add a dozen (or many more if the Brewers trade for the right prospects).

It's a tough question, but every franchise must answer it: "What kind of team do you want to be?"

P.s. Fielder's agent is Scott Boras. And in a couple of years the Red Sox and the Yankees might both be looking for a DH.