Posted by Dan
Greeting everyone. Feels like just yesterday I made a post on this blog, but paging through the archives reveals it was actually June of 1999 the last time I posted. I’m actually surprised it only took me 3 tries to login. My official excuse for my prolonged absence is that I was trapped working in an area with no radio reception for the 2009 season, which makes my insight really boring. “Say, did anyone else notice Casey McGehee’s OBP dropped 3 points this week?” doesn’t really inspire a great discussion. That said, who knows if we’ll look back at this post and laugh next season when I have made no additional posts and the blog is called Darrylandsteve.com — but I will make an honest effort.
My work schedule kind of keeps me from actually watching many of the games, but I do get to listen to them which helps me actually follow more closely than simply coming home and checking to see if they won. I’m sure my observations will pale in comparison to Joe Morgan’s, and people who actually WATCH the games, but I’ll try.
My main inspiration for breaking the silence was the Phillies extending Ryan Howard (30 years old) through his age-35 season for $125 million. I’m pretty sure the risks are obvious, but if they aren’t: Howard is already 30, he’s 6’4″ and 260 pounds, and his 3-year average OPS vs lefties is only .741, including .653 last season. But the title of this blog isn’t “Phillies, Phillies Keep Turning Up the Heat” so I’ll leave that analysis to this guy).
This has certain ramifications for the Brewers chances to re-sign Prince. Obviously, it establishes some sort of precedent Scott Boras will use in free agency, and to me it spells the end for Prince in Milwaukee–if they had any shot of extending him in the first place. Prince is 4 and a half years younger, which means the team who signs him gets him through his prime, whereas Howard is already past his. The past three seasons, Fielder has a WAR 14.7, where Howard’s is 12.4 so Fielder’s been the more productive player. I can’t see 5/$125M even getting it done for Prince, and I’m not sure it’s worth it. Prince is a great player, and we all love him, but I just don’t think they can/should commit $25M of a $90M payroll for one guy. It also makes Fielder more likely to test free agency because Howard was slated to hit FA at the same time as Prince. That class of 1B is scheduled to include Prince, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols. The common thought is that this could kind of curtail the market for Prince, but now with Howard gone that is lessened. You also have to assume Pujols won’t walk, so that has to make Prince more excited to be more of the main attraction.
Here’s what I propose the Brewers should do instead:
1. Extend Rickie Weeks — Rickie is picking up right where he left off last year before the wrist injury derailed his season. I’m trying not to overreact over what is essentially his last 150 ABs, but even his .740 OPS over 560 PA in 2008 as a floor/baseline is valuable enough and it really seems he’s turned the corner. If this .850 OPS version of Rickie Weeks is the real deal, he’s far more valuable, and far less replaceable than Prince. I have no idea what it would take to extend Weeks right now, or if he’d go for it but I think this is a big priority since I can’t see us affording both Weeks and Fielder.
2. Trade Fielder for some haul as soon as it’s confirmed this team isn’t going anywhere this year. If the Brewers can get something like what the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira it could go a long way toward the Brewers long term outlook. If they could find a few players they controlled for 4+ years who could become big contributors, that could be worth more than just the Prince extension.
3. I think the Brewers’ business plan has to bewhat they’ve done to this point. Basically, I think that extensions are going to have to be club-friendly ones like the ones Yo and Braun signed. There’s risk in doing it that way, but it allows you to buy out a year or possibly 2 of free agency while keeping the dollar amount down. Granted, the Bill Hall contract blew up in their face, but I still think that’s the way to go. I also realize this wasn’t possible with the Boras/Fielder duo, but if it’s possible with Weeks I think they should take it. He carries more injury risk I guess, but I’m always willing to give players the benefit of the doubt (I seem to have guys like Brian Westbrook, or Rich Harden every year on my fantasy teams) in terms of injury-proneness (there’s no red squiggly line but how can that be a word?) Unless you believe that Rickie Weeks wrists are just frail and more easily torn than most, I guess I just assume its a fluke.
I’ll leave the proof-reading to Steve.