One of the most aggressive and “win-now” organizations in Major League Baseball over the past decade, seldom have the Milwaukee Brewers and it’s brass gazed back upon the past with any excessive amount of remorse. But given the state of the franchise right now, there’s a good chance that general manager Doug Melvin should have second thoughts about not trading his longtime first-baseman, Prince Fielder, prior to or at the non-waiver trade deadline last season.
Here are a few reasons why Milwaukee should regret not dealing away Fielder last summer.
Prospects, Prospects, Prospects
After putting their farm system on wholesale two winters ago, the Brewers’ minor league affiliates were left in a world of hurt.
Many of the prospects Milwaukee dealt away were nearing a big-league promotion. And while palpable improvements were made a year and a half later, fans are left asking themselves: What might the farm system look like had Melvin dealt Fielder to a desperate contender?
While the answer to that question is unclear and relatively unanswerable, one would have to assume that the Brewers could have landed two, three or even four top-tier youngsters to help aid their system. Who knows—maybe those players would have been MLB-ready by the beginning of this season and could have been able to aid in Milwaukee’s quest toward the postseason this year.
Unfortunately, the organization won’t have the opportunity to watch those potential prospects flourish on the big-league stage. Instead, the Brewers are left with no Fielder and no prospects. That’s regrettable in and of itself.
Fielder’s Value Could’ve Gone Towards Upgrading Other Positions
Alongside Ryan Braun in Milwaukee’s lineup, Prince Fielder was the offensive catalyst to Ron Roenicke’s batting order. Out of the cleanup spot for virtually the entire season, Fielder put up monster numbers on a consistent basis. Consequently, his value was extremely high—but how high?
According to Fan Graphs, Fielder’s statistical yield with the both his bat and glove carried him to a 5.5 WAR (wins above a replacement-level player) that ranked fourth-best among all first basement in baseball and second-best to only Reds first baseman Joey Votto (6.9 WAR) in the National League.
There were a few rumors out there that general manager Doug Melvin might look to trade Fielder before the July 31 trade deadline, but obviously nothing came to fruition. If Melvin would have acted on the sky-high value of his slugging first baseman, the Brewers would have been able to upgrade multiple positions within their lineup and probably wouldn’t be in the injury-ravaged situation they currently find themselves in.
Poor Postseason Production
After a regular season in which he started every single game and posted nothing short of MVP-caliber numbers out of the cleanup spot on Ron Roenicke’s lineup, Fielder was unable to perpetuate his successes into postseason action.
In six postseason games for a total of 25 plate appearances, Fielder posted a slash line of .200/.360/.600 of which included just two home runs, three runs batted in and four runs scored. He also struck out on over 19 percent of his at-bats and uncharacteristically walked on just 8.7 percent of his at-bats, according to Texas Leaguers. This, of course, came after the stocky slugger managed a .299/.415/.566 line with a strikeout rate of 15.3% and a walk rate of 15.5% over the course of the entire regular season, according to Fan Graphs.
General manager Doug Melvin did nearly everything in his power last season to put together a World Series-caliber lineup that would flourish on the biggest and brightest of stages. Unfortunately, the anchor of his batting order just couldn’t get the job done—there’s no denying that Fielder’s productivity warrants some regret.
Another year, another contractual quandary for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last year, the Brewers found themselves in a tough situation with the Prince Fielder, and now they find themselves in a similar situation with Zack Greinke. Lamentably, the entire contract-extension dispute regarding Greinke could have been completely avoided if Melvin would have, at the very least, opened up trade talks for Fielder last season.
Had Milwaukee dealt Fielder to a desperate contender last summer, not only would it have yielded a number of top-caliber prospects, but it would have also taken a large portion of Fielder’s behemoth $15.5 Million 2011 salary off the books. One can only assume that the money saved from shipping Fielder off would have aided Melvin and his brass in their quest to ink Grienke to a lucrative contract extension.
Unfortunately, that opportunity has come and gone, and one would have to think Melvin will regret that reality for years to come.