Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A PRINCE'S RANSOM

A JSOnline poll yesterday asked:

Is Prince Fielder worth as much as the Phillies will pay Ryan Howard ($125 million over five years)?

60% of the people who responded to the poll said "no".  If that sample of representative of the readers of JSOnline, then 60% of their readers are nuts.

Prince Fielder is a better player right now than Ryan Howard.  He was a better player last year (1,014 OPS to Howard's .931).  He was as good of a player the year before last (.879/.881), and he was a better player the year before that (1.013/.976).  Prince Fielder is also 4 years younger than Ryan Howard.  Prince will hit 27, the theoretical peak for a player, next year.  Howard is already 3 years past that and this 5-year contract extension doesn't kick in for two more years.  All of baseball history tells us that Howard's production will be in steady decline over the next seven years.

I would love if the Brewers signed Prince fielder to a 5-year, $125 million contract right now.  The fact is though, that they probably can't get him for that.  If a 32-36 year old Ryan Howard is worth $125 million, a 26-30 year old Prince Fielder is worth much more.

6 comments:

Jared said...

I don't think it's so much that fans don't think Fielder is worth that much as they think the Brewers can't afford to pay him that and still field a competitive team around him. Or at least that they can't afford to gamble 1/4 of the salary on one player, no matter how good he is.

And I agree with that line of thought. -- Jared

Scott Segrin said...

But having Prince Fielder makes the Brewers a much better team than not having him. Better team means higher revenue. Higher revenue means more money to get other players.

Besides, having available resources to sign other players does not translate into success on the field. Jeff Suppan, Bill Hall, you could go on.

The logic only works if you are certain that the money you don't pay to Fielder will translate into equal or greater value from other players. That's a crap shoot at best.

This is why teams sign star players to big contracts. You pretty much know what you're going to get for your money. It actually takes risk out of the equation rather than adds it in.

Jared said...

I disagree that signing Prince takes the risk out of the equation. A contract like that would be a huge risk. You know what he's done, but not what he will do in the future. Even if you throw out the body type/length of career argument (which I wouldn't), he could go out and wreck his knee a week after signing the contract and never play again.

And it's not just money the Brewers would save to use elsewhere, they'd also get a pile of prospects in a trade. The Mark Teixeira trade to the Braves is probably a comparable haul to what the Brewers could get for Fielder. The Rangers got catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones. Saltalamacchia, who was a top prospect at the time of the trade, is a starter for the Rangers when healthy, although he has been a bit of a disappointment. But Andrus is already a top-of-order hitter and starting shortstop and Feliz is a top pitching prospect and has taken over as the Rangers closer. Harrison is starting in the majors for them at age 24 (although not spectacularly yet) and Jones, who was a first round pick for Atlanta in 2005, is developing in AA.

Are prospects a sure thing? Absolutely not. But you spread the risk, and it's a lot cheaper. In the end, I think five or six prospects plus the two or three extra players the Brewers could sign if they avoid signing Prince to a albatross contract should be enough to overcome losing him. The PR blow would be substantial, but that can be overcome by winning.

I would hate to lose Prince, but it would be foolish for the Brewers to sign him for the kind of money he's going to get.

Scott Segrin said...

Prince Fielder started more games in the field in the last four years (06-09) than any other player in the Major Leagues. Any of those guys who started fewer games could blow their knee out too.

There's never been a player of Prince's body type so we really have nothing to compare to. The fact is that so far in his career he's been as durable as they come.

I firmly believe that teams win with superstars - not stars - superstars. The Brewers have two superstars right now. If they can get another two they can win a World Championship. Trading one away is a step in the wrong direction.

(Thanks for sharing your thoughts.)

Scott Segrin said...

...one more thing. Are you telling me that if tomorrow night you heard a news release that the Brewers signed Fielder to a five year extension that it wouldn't totally jack you up? Come on...

...one other. If you sign Fielder, it doesn't mean that you can't trade him anyway. You still could. For the team on the other end of the deal it wouldn't be all that different. They either assume the contract that the Brewers sign him to or assume the contract that they'd have to sign him to themselves.

Jared said...

You're right, any player could blow out his knee. That's why I don't think the Brewers should sign any player to a deal the size of what Prince is seeking. It's just way too crippling for a team with a payroll of $80-$90 million to have one player making $25 million.

Bigger hitters (like Prince) historically have started to tail off quickly at about age 30. Will Prince? Who knows? But his dad, Mo Vaughn and others like them are our best indicators at this point, and that's not a good sign for Prince.

The debate is difficult for me. As a Brewers fan, I would absolutely hate to lose one of the best hitters in franchise history in the prime of his career. But when I step back and really take a look at it, my analytical side just can't see it making sense for the Brewers to sign him for the long term. If the news breaks tomorrow morning that the Brewers locked up Prince, I'd be thrilled that I'd get to watch him in a Brewers uniform for the foreseeable future. And then I'd pray his contract wouldn't sink the franchise for the better part of a decade.

 
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