Monday, March 22, 2010

Those Insane Mauer-Fielder Comparisons Likely to Continue

Joe Mauer was set to be a free agent after the 2010 season. The 27-year-old opted to instead sign an eight-year deal with the Minnesota Twins for $184 million.

He's a great hitter, having already won three American League batting titles. Last year, the power people promised we would see finally showed up, as Mauer socked 28 home runs in just over 600 at-bats.

More significantly, Mauer is a great hitter, who will only get better as he continues to harness his power, but he's also a great defensive player who has drawn raves for his ability to handle a pitching staff.

As most baseball fans know, Mauer is a highly valuable player because of his two-way -- so to speak -- ability. There simply aren't a lot of perennial .320 hitters who can hit for power and also play superb defense at that position.

While Twins fans celebrate Mauer's long-term contract, fans across the border are left to wonder how this will impact their soon-to-be free-agent star.

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder will be a free agent after the 2011 season. He turns 27 that season, and since he has Scott Boras as an agent, it makes sense that the Brewers face an uphill battle if they want to buy Fielder's free agent years.

Fielder's power has never been in question. What's nice to see is that his defense has improved since he became a big-leaguer, and he finally has found a way to get on base when people aren't pitching to him.

His power? Well, yeah. Youngest to 50 home runs in a season. 141 RBI last year to go along with 46 home runs. He would have been the highest-profile player in the NL if not for that damn Pujols guy.

.299/.412/.602 is probably the peak of his offensive abilitites, and that's just fine. He's a Hall of Famer if he can find a way to keep doing that.

Their VORP numbers are almost identical (77.5 for Mauer, 75.6 for Fielder). Their star power in these cities is enormous.

So why is it so idiotic to think that they're worth similar contracts? It's something that you're going to read a lot about, and it's already kind of started.

The Brewers would like to keep Fielder off the free-agent market as well, and have an extra year to do so. Mauer, who was eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, signed an eight-year, $184 million deal Sunday to remain with the Twins.

That deal was very close to the eight-year, $180 million deal Mark Teixeira got from the New York Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2009 season. Teixeira’s agent is Scott Boras, who also represents Fielder.

Asked about Mauer’s deal, Fielder said, “It's great. It's beautiful. I'm very happy for him.

“Any time you see another player (get a big deal), you feel good for him. I just want the best for any player in the game.”

... Whether the Brewers would offer Fielder that kind of money remains to be seen. Melvin said talks were ongoing but declined to categorize them as both sides adhere to the agreement to keep details confidential.

For starters, the Twins signed Mauer out of desperation. Yes, he's good and deserving. But the Twins were desperate to buy his free agent years and pay him through his prime, because they knew they couldn't be taken seriously as a franchise if they didn't get his guy re-signed.

Meanwhile, the Brewers already outsmarted the system, buying star outfielder Ryan Braun out of his arbitration years and the start of his free agent clock. They would really like to re-sign Fielder, but they know they already have a fanbase and they don't have to worry about being the laughingstock of the sport if they let Fielder go.

Much less pressure, and that's great, because the Brewers don't have the backing of the 15th-largest media market in the country like the Twins do.

(Yes, 15th. But keep calling the Twins small market. That's accurate. You know what other baseball franchise is small market? The Dodgers. Just write it a few times, and morons will start believing it.)

Not only that, but what's harder to find? A great defensive catcher who can hit, or a fat first baseman who socks home runs, takes walks, and is around average defensively?

Mauer might not be a better overall player than Fielder, but suggesting Fielder is worth $23 million per year because Mauer got it is laughable. Fielder is worth more than the $120 million over seven years that Matt Holliday got from St. Louis, and he's worth less than what Mauer got.

Of course, what reality dictates and what Boras thinks are often two totally different things. Boras is well-known for getting everything he can possibly get for his clients, and it's unlikely he'll let Fielder settle for what he thinks is a deal even $1 below market value.

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