With the free agent signing period officially underway, we would've thought that the first news to come out would be an announcement of a deal for a starting pitcher. Turns out it's news about a player already under contract for 2010.
A few months ago, the idea of a long-term deal for Prince Fielder seemed impossible. Now Jon Heyman is tweeting that Doug Melvin is preparing to make the slugger an offer later this winter, once he gets the pitching situation squared away. Many people -- including myself -- just assumed that 2010 would be Fielder's last year in a Brewers uniform, and he'd be dealt next winter for a slew of prospects before the Brewers had to give him another huge raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility. Needless to say, this is some pretty exciting news.
Fielder has a guaranteed contract for the 2010 season, thanks to the 2-year contract he signed last year to avoid arbitration. At the time, the deal was seen as a great success -- anytime you can avoid going to arbitration with a Scott Boras client, you should probably feel pretty good about yourself. It was probably the best possible outcome for the Brewers, aside from locking in Fielder's contract for all three arbitration years or even buying out a year of free agency.
Will Fielder seriously consider the offer? Probably not, given the history of Boras clients, but perhaps the Brewers can afford to make a 2 or 3 year offer that would buy out a year or two of free agency. The contracts of Jeff Suppan and Bill Hall come off the books after this season, and Ryan Braun's team-friendly deal won't start eating up significant chunks of the payroll until 2012 or so (Braun's salary schedule: $1 million next year, $4 million in 2011, $6 million in 2012, $8.5 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, and $12.5 million in 2015). Considering the Brewers have drawn 3 million fans in back-to-back seasons, the team probably has a bit of unexpected cash laying around that could be used to keep Fielder in town through 2011.
Fielder is scheduled to make $10.5 million next year. While it's a hefty salary to pay for a club like the Brewers, he'll likely be worth every dime, and the Brewers are lucky that they have him locked into that deal considering it's extremely likely he'll finish in the Top 3 (or even Top 2) of the NL MVP race when the award is announced next week. If the Brewers could get him to give up a year of free agency, it would give fans even more reason for optimism after a particularly disappointing season.
What would be realistic, though? Would Fielder and Boras seriously consider something like 2 years and $35 million guaranteed, giving him a small raise? Or would it take $40+ million for 2 years, and up over $60 million for 3? What would you be comfortable with? We'll have a new poll up soon, and feel free to comment.