What SHOULD the Brewers do???


Seeing as the Brewers are on a bit of a hot stretch, having won six of their past seven, featuring a sweep over the rival Twins even, it seemed a good time to bring up this question. FanGraphs has started a running series about buying vs. selling at the trade deadline, and a few days ago had this post surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers options/.
Now, I think the post has plenty of strong points, and brings up the most interesting question surrounding the team, long-term: What to do with Fielder.
First off, let me say that Prince Fielder is one of the best offensive players in baseball, and he’s also just 26 years old. With a wOBA of .420 last season he rated as the No. 2 first baseman offensively in baseball last season, and really, he is capable of similar performances pretty much any year.
However, Fielder is a below average fielding first baseman, with a career UZR/150 of -6.4. His fielding prowess is the key reason that only two of his first four seasons saw his WAR value at just 1.3 and 2.7.
Now, this isn’t to say that because Fielder doesn’t do his surname justice, the Brewers should trade him. Hardly.
What I AM saying though is that in the NL, if your 1B is nearly a DH when it comes to his glovework, then that player is rather replaceable.
While I won’t go so far as to say that Fielder is easily replaced, I can say that finding either a first baseman who either can hit well and field poorly is not difficult, of field well and hit average might be the easiest find in baseball.
I say this because the vast amount of major leaguers in the game today could probably slide to first base and maintain a UZR/150 of -6 or better, especially after an offseason working on it. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but a few positive examples include, Nick Swisher (-2.0 last year), Ramon Hernandez (-5.1), Luke Scott (-2.9), Pablo Sandoval (1.4), Mark Kotsay, (2.7), Matt LaPorta (14.4) and Jose Lopez (18.1).
Now most of those players only had spot duty at first last year, but all were primarily used at other positions for the bulk of their career and have transitioned to be as good or better defensively as Prince.
Now, before we get any further, let’s note that under the most optimistic of circumstances, Prince Fielder is unlikely to sign long term with the Crew. He will probably make about $15 million or so next year in arbitration, and while the Brewers can pay him that, they seem unlikely to offer him the six-year high eight or “low” nine digit number that will be necessary to sign him.
So even if you love Prince and want him to stay forever, you have to realize the odds of that happening aren’t too high. In fact, they’re lousy.
And that might be for the best, because while Prince is a transcendent hitter, his, uh, body type doesn’t exactly scream “20-year career”. Or really, “productive 10-year-career” for that matter. It just doesn’t look like Fielder, vegetarian or not, can sustain his current level of performance for too much longer. I’m not sure I’d want to offer him a six-or-seven year contract, much less a 10-year deal, which could be what Fielder is asking. Who knows.
So, all that said, Fielder’s trade value is likely to be highest right now, when whoever gets him has another full season of him. It hurts that Prince is off to a bit of a sluggish start, but overall, I think he would garner more in return now then next year if he were having production similar to his 2009.
In short, the Brewers brass HAS to know Fielders sign-ability by now (right?) and if they can’t get a good value for their dollar, they MUST trade him while his value is highest (RIGHT??).
The fact is that finding a productive 1B can be found. Heck, it could be Mat Gamel down in the minors.
Getting a good haul for Prince, simply makes sense. He is worth more to the Brewers than any other team due to his popularity, so keeping him makes sense, too. But at the cost he might be asking for, that might not be an option.
IF that’s the case, now might be the time to make a move.