MLB: Will Joe Mauer deal up Prince Fielder’s price with Brewers?
By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
PHOENIX — What impact the Joe Mauer signing might have on the negotiations between the Milwaukee Brewers and Prince Fielder remains to be seen, but it showed once again that elite players get top dollar.
“You can keep anybody if you want to pay the market price,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. “(Mauer) got that money without going on the free-agent market.”
The Brewers would like to keep their all-star first baseman off the free-agent market as well and have an extra year to do so. Mauer, who was eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, signed an eight-year, $184 million deal Sunday to remain with the Twins.
That deal was similar to the eight-year, $180 million deal that Mark Teixeira was given by the New York Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2009 season. Teixeira’s agent is Scott Boras, who also represents Fielder.
Asked about Mauer’s deal, Fielder said, “It’s great. It’s beautiful. I’m very happy for him.
“Anytime you see another player (get a big deal), you feel good for him. I just want the best for any player in the game.”
Fielder said Mauer’s deal didn’t make him think what he could get from the Brewers.
“Not really, because I don’t really think about it,” said Fielder. “I’m just focused on getting ready. It doesn’t really make me think about myself. It’s just cool for him.”
Whether the Brewers would offer Fielder that kind of money remains to be seen. Melvin said talks were ongoing but declined to categorize them as both sides adhere to their agreement to keep details confidential.
Melvin did say that no timetable was set for concluding talks, meaning they could continue into the regular season.
“(Stopping talks by opening day) usually happens with guys who are in their free-agent year,” said Melvin. “That doesn’t apply to Prince.”
Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun said the Mauer signing bucked the trend of elite players going to bigger markets, but he also noted the differences in Mauer and Fielder. For one thing, Fielder is one of the game’s top sluggers, while Mauer is an annual candidate for the batting crown.
“I think they’re similar in that they’re two of the best players in the game,” said Braun. “Aside from that, different positions, different kind of players.
“It shows you that somebody of his caliber can avoid going to one of the big cities, which hasn’t happened too many times of late. It definitely provides some hope (for the Brewers) but, again, completely different circumstances.
“We’re all hoping Prince stays here. He’s an amazing player. I think he definitely enjoys being here. It’s just figuring out what’s in his best interests and the interests of his family.”
The more, the merrier: What if the Brewers kept all seven candidates for their starting rotation on their opening day roster?
That seemed a distinct possibility when manager Ken Macha talked about the looming decisions regarding his pitching staff.
“Everything will be a little clearer, maybe on the 29th,” said Macha, referring to the final Monday of camp. “We still have problems with making sure these starters still are pitching (regularly).”
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo and lefties Randy Wolf and Doug Davis have been lined up in the first three spots in the rotation, leaving left-handers Manny Parra and Chris Narveson and right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan in a supposed competition for the other two roles.
Parra and Narveson are out of options and likely would not clear waivers. Bush has the right to decline a minor-league assignment, and Suppan has a $12.5 million contract for 2010, which would be extremely difficult to move.
To avoid losing any of those pitchers coming out of spring training, two could be assigned to bullpen duty.
“There are a number of factors,” said Macha. “Guys’ track records come into play. Maintaining the depth is No. 2. Also, the overall look of the organization, not just this year but the next year and year after that.
“We’ve got some guys out of options who are younger guys. You wouldn’t want to lose them and then be sitting here next year with no pitching.
“We try to retain some of the guys, as many as we can, to have those options. Where do they go? Are they going in the bullpen? Will they be productive for you in the bullpen?”
Moving two starters into the bullpen also would impact players there. Right-hander Carlos Villanueva, who has a minor-league option remaining, would be in jeopardy. Veteran Scott Schoeneweis also would be in a tough position if another lefty, such as Narveson, was shuffled to relief duty.
“There are going to be tough decisions where it’s not going to be 100 percent that everybody’s happy with the decisions made,” said Macha.
“We’re trying to do what we feel is best for the present and the future viability of the organization. We want to win today yet we want to still have it so it’s not just this year.”
Capuano on hold: For the second consecutive day, left-hander Chris Capuano had a bullpen session pushed back to allow another long-tossing drill.
Pitching coach Rick Peterson is a big believer in long tossing to build strength and elasticity in the arm muscles. Capuano said the good news was that the inflammation in his elbow that sidelined him had cleared up.
“We’re being cautious, which is fine,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back in games. At the same time, I want to do things right.”
Green checks in: The Brewers added minor-league third baseman Taylor Green to camp to provide extra depth at that position for the remaining two weeks. The Brewers’ minor-league player of the year in 2007, Green missed much of last season with a wrist injury that required surgery.
“The wrist feels great now,” said Green, 23. “It was tough luck, but I’m past that now. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”