The Milwaukee Brewers Are Going to Be Just Fine Without Prince Fielder
Life moves on.
I've now had a month to come to terms with the heartbreaking end to what was arguably the best season in franchise history for Milwaukee. I have come to terms with the fact that the Brewers have a lot of work to do if they want to win 96 games next season, that we are losing one of our best coaches to one of our bitter rivals and perhaps most importantly, I have come to terms with the probability Prince Fielder will not be wearing a Brewers uniform in 2012.
Sure, there is still a possibility that Prince can return next year, especially with what appears to be a very small market for his services, but it is becoming apparent that Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, and the rest of the Brewers brass are making plans to build a team without Prince Fielder for the first time since 2006.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, and the task the Brewers face heading into the offseason may seem insurmountable on the surface.
We're losing one of the most feared hitters in baseball, and on top of replacing his production, the Brewers must now figure out how to protect Ryan Braun so his production can remain prolific.
For a week now, I have been trying to figure out an article about how to replace Prince Fielder. Initially, I was going to write about five potential players that could fill his hole at first base, but to say that one player will replace the production and the presence of Prince Fielder is ludicrous.
I also tried writing a five step process that could help the Brewers replace Prince, but even that just didn't seem to do the trick.
Will the Brewers make the playoffs in 2012?
The simple fact of the matter is that the Brewers simply cannot replace Prince Fielder... and I have come to terms with that.
Signing Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez or any other big name free agent would not be enough. Both of those players would be great additions to the Brewers, but realistically, neither will happen. Even if they did, Prince's presence would still be sorely missed.
The good news is that even without Fielder in the clubhouse in 2012, the Brewers are going to be just fine.
Sure, there is a lot of work to be done this offseason. With no organizational shortstop ready to move to the big leagues, and no major league shortstop currently on the roster, the Brewers must make a move to fill the most difficult position in the infield.
Whether that's a big ticket guy like Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, a reliable veteran like Clint Barmes or Rafael Furcal or even bringing back Yuniesky Betancourt, the decision must be made soon to provide some sense of stability to this team.
Finances are an issue for this team, but the big men in the office for the Brewers have made it clear that they are not afraid to spend some money to make this team competitive.The trick for the Brewers this offseason is not going to be dumping a ton of money into big ticket free agents.
Most people talk as if Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are the only superstars on this team. Even with Fielder gone, the Brewers still have Rickie Weeks (providing he has an injury free year) and Corey Hart, both of whom are coming off great seasons and have the potential to be superstars.
Mat Gamel has given us back to back great seasons in AAA, and it is time to give him a chance. Some people try to argue that he has been given a chance, but let's get real... he's had under 200 at bats in the majors, and has not been given a chance to compete every day. If coached properly, he could give the Brewers 20+ homers and 80+ RBIs, as well as solid defense.
Casey McGehee is coming off a horrible season, but he has every chance to bounce back—if he can get back to the way he played in 2010, that will be another great bat. If he doesn't, young Taylor Green has proven that he is capable of great play in the majors.
And of course, the pitching. The whole starting rotation will be back (and possibly extended), and while the bullpen will need work with three of the best arms possibly leaving, I have great faith that the Brewers will be able to make the bullpen a strong point again next season.
John Axford is anchoring the pen as the closer, and anytime you have a shutdown pitcher like Axford (2011: 1.95 ERA, 46 SVs, 73.2 IP, 86 Ks) finishing games, you are in good shape.
The Brewers do not need to try to "replace" Prince Fielder's insane production. It would be a waste of time, effort and very likely, a colossal waste of money.
What the Brewers need to do is focus on building a team that plays better defense, has speed on the bases, gets through the game without giving up big innings and gets on base.Those are goals that are possible without Fielder, and if the Brewers do that they will be in great shape going into 2012.
Projected 2012 opening day line-up (2011 stats)
1 - Corey Hart (.285, 26 HR, 63 RBI)
2 - Nyjer Morgan (.304, 4 HR, 37 RBI)
3 - Ryan Braun (.332, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
4 - Rickie Weeks (.269, 20 HR, 49 RBI)
5 - Casey McGehee (.223, 13 HR, 67 RBI)
6 - Mat Gamel (.310, 28 HR, 96 RBI) - AAA stats
7 - Clint Barmes (.244, 12 HR, 39 RBI)
8 - Jonathan Lucroy (.265, 12 HR, 58 RBI)
9 - Yovani Gallardo/Starting pitcher
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