"We'll be in the game" for free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, Brewers owner Mark Attansio told reporters last night (including Steve Haywood of ESPN 540) after his team was eliminated from the playoffs. Attanasio said, "We'd love to bring the big guy back," but noted that he'd like to have some distance from the season so that emotions are not an issue.
Fielder received an ovation from Brewers fans last night, as many believed his eighth inning at-bat was his last for the team that drafted him almost a decade ago. Fielder deflected questions about whether he'll be back next year, and seemed annoyed when pressed. In September, he admitted 2011 was "probably the last year" he'd be with Milwaukee.
Agent Scott Boras could begin by attempting to top his own record contract for a first baseman, the eight year, $180MM deal Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees three years ago. Boras drew that comparison publicly in July of 2010. Boras could also make a case to beat the $184MM given to Joe Mauer in March of 2010, especially since Prince has been so durable, tweets Peter Gammons. However, there are some who see Fielder around Adrian Gonzalez's seven year, $154MM deal, reported SI's Jon Heyman. Mauer helps Boras, and Gonzalez hurts him, but neither is a great comparable since they weren't signed on the open market.
I'd be very surprised to see the Brewers re-sign Fielder within the exclusive negotation period. I think if he hits the open market and finds the bids disappointing, then a window opens for the Brewers. Boras has occasionally fallen well short of the early buzz for certain free agent clients. Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon come to mind from recent years. After the '08 season, a four-year, $100MM figure was floated for Manny, but the Dodgers held the line and got him for two years and $45MM. The Yankees and Red Sox are likely to sit out the Fielder sweepstakes, and Prince is not a great fit for the Nationals. The remaining potential suitors are not known for record-breaking contracts, with the possible exception of the Cubs.