Could Prince Fielder be the final piece of the championship puzzle in San Francisco?
Rumors of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder being traded to the San Francisco Giants are nothing new. In fact, Fielder to the Giants has been talked about in both Milwaukee and San Francisco for a couple years now. However, the time for talk is over. The Brewers and Giants need to come together this winter and make a deal for the All-Star slugger.
Fielder, who is coming off a down year in which he hit only 32 home runs and drove in 83 runs, is arbitration eligible this winter before hitting the free agency market after the 2011 season. Most insiders feel he will get anywhere between $15-17 million in arbitration this winter.
The Giants have been searching for a big bat in the middle of their lineup since Barry Bonds' departure after the 2007 season, and Fielder would more than fill that void. In 2010, Giant hitters had a line of .257/.321/.408. Fielder, even in his down year, had a line of .261/.401/.471. He has a career on-base percentage of .385 and has slugged .535 in his five full seasons in the Majors.
The long-standing concern for Fielder has been his durability. Critics will always voice their doubts for Fielder's long-term health given his size, but he has more than proven his value to a club for an entire season. Since becoming the Brewers' full-time starter at first base in 2006, he has missed a grand total of 13 games. Injuries should be of no more concern for Fielder than they are for any other big-league player.
In return for the 26-year-old, the Brewers would want some of the Giants deep pitching. GM Doug Melvin tried to stabilize the rotation after the 2009 season by inking Randy Wolf and Doug Davis to free agent deals, but the Brewers still had little improvement over their 2009 performances. Only the Diamondbacks and Pirates finished with a worse team ERA than the Brewers' 4.59.
Wolf got off to an awful start, while Davis spent the majority of the season on the DL. Even team ace Yovani Gallardo struggled through a prolonged slump for six weeks in July and August.
If anything was shown by the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS last night, it was that Tim Lincecum can put a team on his shoulders and carry them in the Playoffs through the early rounds. However, if the Giants want to take the next step to an elite-level team and compete against a team like the Phillies, they need that big bat in the middle of the lineup. Fielder, even in a down year like 2010, would be a significant upgrade over Aubrey Huff.
What makes now even more of the right time to go after Fielder is the asking price by the Brewers. When rumors of Fielder to the Giants first surfaced in 2008, many thought Matt Cain would be the one heading to Milwaukee. While Melvin would now jump at the chance to get Cain, that ship has long-ago sailed away.
Speculation earlier this summer had the Giants sending Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and a prospect to Milwaukee. If that package would still be available, Melvin should personally drive Fielder to San Francisco. He might as well pack up the Golden Gate Bridge as well, since he'd already be robbing the Giants' organization.
The more likely scenario would now see either Sanchez or Bumgarner be dealt to Milwaukee along with a mid-level prospect. Even if Brewer fans would be unhappy with that return, Melvin should still jump at the offer. Sanchez still has two more years until he reaches free agency, while Bumgarner would be under team control until after the 2015 season.
Either lefty would fit in quite well to the below average Brewers' rotation and give the team three quality pitchers to depend upon. Melvin could then go after a free agent this winter, and the Brewers could suddenly have a very good rotation heading into the 2011 season.
GM Brian Sabean and even some Giant fans may be hesitant to take on Fielder's large waistline and contract, but they shouldn't be. Even though the organization already has committed contracts in the neighborhood of $77 million for 2011, Fielder could very well be the final piece to a championship puzzle.
The rotation would still be well above average and teams would be forced to deal with a motivated Fielder going into a contract season. If you are inclined to look at trends, he is also slated to have a big season in 2011. In odd number seasons, Fielder has a career batting average of .293. In 2007, he hit a career-high 50 home runs, and he led the league with 141 RBI in 2009.
If Sabean or the fan base need any other convincing for taking a chance on Fielder, they need only look at the Giants history in San Francisco. 2011 will mark the 53rd season in the city for the team, and they have yet to win a World Series while on the West Coast. I don't know of any fan that wouldn't trade away a quality pitcher in order to have a very good shot at immortality. Of course, knowing Sabean, the obvious isn't always the logical choice.
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