6.22.2010

A Princely Sum

The Milwaukee Brewers are mired in a longtime slump in the development of young pitchers and Prince Fielder's time under club control is running short on time. I've delayed in making my decision about Big Prince's future with the Brew Crew but that's a choice that's become more and more clear in the early part of this season.

It's not about the 2010 Brewers anymore, it's about 2011 and beyond. For the future of the franchise, one of the biggest stars on the Milwaukee Brewers has got to go. So what makes now the right time? Why make this deal now rather than wait until the end of the season?

Fielder is on pace to drive in his lowest number of runs since he came into the majors. He's also on pace to have his lowest home run total since his rookie season and lowest doubles total in a full season since he came to the majors. That won't last, but the Brewers are making due without his RBIs and have players approaching in the minors that can take his spot in the near future. Between Brett Lawrie and Mat Gamel you will have an acceptable replacement.

The closest precedent for this deal would have to be when the Texas Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to Atlanta at the trade deadline. In that deal Texas landed a 100-MPH arm in Neftali Feliz, a future gold-glove winning shortstop in Elvis Andrus, a serviceable pitcher in Matt Harrison and a high-ceilinged bat in Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That's four players who have had some degree of success in the major leagues.

Will the Brewers be able to bring in the same haul of players and prospects? It's hard to say, Teixeira is a gold glove winner. There is a school of thought that says teams will give up more during the season and another school that says they won't. One thing that is for sure is that whoever does give up their prospects will want to keep Fielder for as long as possible. Much like Doug Melvin dealing for C.C. Sabathia well before the trade deadline, the market will be better for Prince the further the team is from trade day.

The market is there, teams will have an interest in Fielder. He's the left-handed bat and power hitter that teams will covet, not to mention he's still only 26 years old. There are a number of different teams that have the need, the entire American League West for example.

What the Crew will ask for back - and the only thing that they can reasonably accept - is pitching. Any pitching will do, ideally major league ready or near-major league ready but the development of position players has never been a problem.

A small market team like the Brewers can't have the percentage of payroll tied up in one player that it would take to keep Prince in Milwaukee. That's the bottom line.

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