He stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall and is listed as weighing 270 pounds. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2002 draft and is entering his final year of arbitration. To the Milwaukee Brewers, Prince Fielder is an integral part of the team.
Coming off the worst season of his career, rumours are swirling as to what Brewers GM Doug Melvin will do this off-season. Does he trade his prized possession in the hopes of re-stocking his farm system, or does he hold onto Fielder and make a push for the playoffs in 2011?
Fielder's 2010 salary of $10.5-million was affordable for the Brewers, but what will he get this year if he goes to arbitration? His 2010 season does not indicate that a huge raise is on the horizon, but someone could probably expect a salary of around $13-$15-million for the 2011 season. The fact that the Brewers have failed to lock up Fielder long term tells me that he definitely intends to test free agency after the 2011 season where he could fetch upwards of $20-million a year on the open market.
However, at this point, Fielder may not be the prize of the 2011 free agent market. First basemen Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres are also due to hit free agency at the same time, and provided neither player is signed to a lucrative contract over the next year, we may see a very interesting off-season next year regarding first basemen.
What exactly does Fielder bring to the Brewers? His 50 home runs during the 2007 season are a start. The fact that he almost hit .300 last year while finish with a .299 batting average is something else. But in 2010, he had probably the lowest offensive output of his career. His slash line of .261/.401/.471 is impressive, but not by his own standards. He led the National League with 114 walks, but had less than 100 RBI for the first time since 2006 while posting a total of just 83 this year.
The low number for RBI can perhaps be offset by teammates Casey McGehee, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart having totals of 104, 103 and 102 respectively. Fielder still led the team with 32 home runs and made just 4 errors in the field all season.
The Brewers had no problems with offence in 2010, but if they can improve their starting rotation for the 2011 season, I think it would be better for them to hold onto Fielder for the season. Of their starters, only Yovani Gallardo had an ERA below 4. Only three National League teams scored more runs than the Brewers in 2010, but at the same time, only two teams allowed more runs. If the Brewers do trade Fielder, they would need to receive pitching in return and go out and get a replacement.
Another way of improving their pitching staff would be to trade prospect Brett Lawrie. Lawrie could certainly get the Brewers some young pitching that could be with the team for years to come, and it would not compromise the 2011 season. Trading away top prospects like Lawrie is always hard, but for the Brewers, it may be worth it in this case.
Essentially, I think that the Milwaukee Brewers should hang onto Prince Fielder this season and attempt to improve their pitching any way they can. If they had even remotely respectable pitching this past season, they would have reached the playoffs. Beyond Gallardo, their starting rotation left a lot to be desired. Some may argue that guys like Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson had winning records. But if you think about it, would other pitchers with their ERAs really have that many wins on teams with much lower run support? Likely not. The Brewers have a strong offensive team, but just need to improve their pitching to be successful. If they can acquire some effective starters and relievers this off-season while keeping Fielder in the lineup, they could very well run away with the division title.