Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Face it, Brewers Fans: Boras is Right About Prince Fielder

The baseball All-Star break has started. You know what that means.


Baseball's All-Star Game isn't what it used to be. There is way too much showmanship before the start of the game, and it often runs past midnight in the Eastern time zone. I'm not one to use the tired "Kids can't watch the game!" line on the All-Star Game because I don't think there's any way to make kids care about such a spectacle.

The game itself is rarely newsworthy, unless something bad -- a tie, for example -- were to happen.

Instead, the news is often made off the field, as we usually get a lot of trade deadline banter, to go along with agents talking about how great their clients are.

One agent notorious for the latter is Scott Boras. The superagent is a master of manipulating teams in negotiations, and maximizing the return for his clients. There's a reason the top young prospects and established veterans all seemingly flock to Boras for representation.

He's good. That's why.

Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder is a Boras client. He's not an All-Star, but Boras is in Anaheim for the game Tuesday, and he spoke to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt Monday about the Brewers' efforts to re-sign Fielder.

Let's just say those efforts aren't going well.

Boras said he views Fielder as a “rare, rare commodity” for what the Brewers’ slugger accomplished by age 25. Fielder, who turned 26 in May, already has accumulated 181 home runs in 764 major-league games.

Every other player that has that by his age is a Hall of Famer,” said Boras, in attendance at the all-star interview sessions for players from both leagues.

The Brewers opened talks with Boras earlier this year on an extension for Fielder, who can be a free agent after the 2011 season. Word among agents attending the All-Star Game is that the Brewers made an initial offer of five years at just over $100 million.

Boras must have let the Brewers know that wouldn’t be nearly enough because talks broke off and nothing has happened for weeks. Boras declined to categorize the nature of those talks but made it clear that he considers Fielder a top-dollar player.

“We sat down and talked about exploratory elements of the process of free agency,” said Boras. “To suggest anyone is putting deadlines or timelines on it is wrong.

“With any slugger, three things are always certain. One is they are coveted. Two is they are either signed or subject to being traded. The third one is that regardless of where he’s at or will be, the rarity of their performance make them dramatically impactful to the system.

“Those number of players are less than 10 in baseball, from the offensive side, and Prince is one of them.”

Boras noted that Fielder is a more accomplished power hitter and younger than another of his clients, first baseman Mark Teixeira, who signed an eight-year, $180-million free-agent deal with the New York Yankees prior to the 2009 season.

“When you have a player that performs like Mark Teixeira, you have to look at Prince Fielder’s performance in comparison,” said Boras. “You want to know the value of a player? Take a look at it.

“Prince is a home-run hitter. He’s 70 home runs ahead of Teixeira at that point (of his career). Prince has much more power. This is how you (gauge) performance and age and production. You have to ask in the market place how many players can do this?”

This isn't a case involving a player who could be on the verge of a serious decline. People rag on Fielder for his weight, but the slugger continues to hit, he has plenty of power, he's still young, and there is no sign of his weight dragging him down. Despite the lines people try to feed you, he's not a butcher defensively, and he's not a cancer in the clubhouse.

Reality is that Fielder will deserve the payday he's going to get. He'll make sure he puts up the numbers to warrant it, and Boras will make damn sure he gets it.

That's what he does best.

And in this case, he should. Fielder is young enough that this might not be his only big payday, but you can't plan that way. The Brewers might be able to make a competitive offer, but it seems unlikely that they'll be able to keep Fielder if there is any interest in him on the open market.

Remember, it only takes one deep-pocketed team to break the bank on Fielder, and the Brewers are left with extra draft picks and a huge hole at first base.

What should they do?

Does general manager Doug Melvin just throw in the towel on this season, deal Fielder before July 31, and hope that the "under contract for next season" carrot is enough to inspire some serious offers?

Should he wait until the winter to deal him? There is a theory in baseball that position players get you more in return if you deal them during the offseason.

The other option is to wait until next summer. Of course, if the Brewers somehow become a contender, you can't go off trading your best player for -- at best -- sixty cents on the dollar. Then you're stuck getting nothing for him in free agency. That would go over like a lead balloon in Milwaukee.

The best option is probably to trade him this year, when you can sell teams on the idea of having him for the stretch run this year, and then the entire 2011 season. It's going to suck for the people of Milwaukee, and it might drive some fans to the newsstand to grab a football preview and read up on the Packers.

But it's best for the franchise. Look at other examples around sports. You can't just let prominent players walk as free agents with no compensation. If you do, it makes your franchise look worse than trading them ahead of time does.

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