Crew preparing to move on without Prince
Fielder's agent Boras addresses reporters for first time
DALLAS -- As Brewers general manager Doug Melvin gave the strongest indication yet that Milwaukee is moving on without free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, the player's agent touted a robust market for the 27-year-old slugger."I think we're at a point now where we have to consider moving on," Melvin said Wednesday afternoon, hours before Scott Boras addressed reporters for the first time at these Winter Meetings. The Brewers have been a long shot all along for Fielder, the former first-round Draft pick who spent the last six seasons in Milwaukee's starting lineup and is a free agent for the first time. When Albert Pujols is officially off the market, Fielder will be the best hitter left. Boras spoke of a number of teams having a "wide variety" of interest in Fielder, whom he continued to bill as an option for contenders and building teams. Next, he will travel to Orlando to discuss with Fielder the next step. "I know a lot more, and I do know that we're going to get a variety of approaches to this," Boras said. "The first thing I have to find out is what Prince really wants to do, where he wants to do it, and see if his needs meet the interests of the top group of teams that he wants to go to. I know this -- we're surprised in some instances about the teams that have come to us, knowing their rosters. He has some new things to think about." Does Fielder have a geographic preference? "I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate," Boras quipped. "That's the geographics he likes." Boras downplayed what has been a relatively quiet market for Fielder, citing the number of new general managers (six, plus the Astros, who have an interim GM) and the idea that teams "want to be thorough, want to be calculated about what they do." "When you're talking about franchise commitments, they have to report to ownership as result of our meetings and get back with me on that," Boras said. "This is a negotiation that is really one of its own because he's 27 years old. He has a different place in the market, and the demands on his services are broader because you have teams that are not as playoff-ready that are interested [and] you have clubs that are veteran that are interested. You have a whole variety of teams that are involved." Boras said Milwaukee remained "part of the process," but since they last had serious discussions Boras, the Brewers have allocated their resources to long-term deals for outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and right-hander Yovani Gallardo, among others. With raises due those players, it is difficult to see the Brewers signing Fielder without leaving other holes on the roster. The payroll grew even tighter on Wednesday night when another Boras client, reliever Francisco Rodriguez, accepted the Brewers' arbitration offer. Instead of Draft picks in the event Rodriguez signed elsewhere, the Brewers suddenly owned baseball's most expensive setup man.
Still, the Brewers will not close the door on Fielder until he signs with another team. The club took a meeting late Tuesday with Boras at the agent's request, and it included Milwaukee principal owner Mark Attanasio.But Melvin downplayed the significance of that sit-down, saying Attanasio was simply in Dallas to sit in on planning sessions during the Winter Meetings, as he does every year. The club's contingent was at dinner when Boras called and asked whether they wanted to meet. "They were somewhat updating us to where he's at," said Melvin, who said the discussion moved on to other Boras free agents. Among the teams linked to Fielder this winter are the Cubs, Mariners and Orioles. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum is very close with Fielder and said if Chicago makes a run for him, he would participate in the sales pitch. Of the Mariners, Boras said, "Look, Seattle is a place where they've drawn 3.5 million fans. They're a proven market. Their TV ratings per household are one of the highest in Major League Baseball. They're a franchise that, if they are successful, the fans really, really support the team."
Boras said Fielder's options remain wide open."I think any team that wants to get better will inquire on him," Boras said. "Whether they're a younger team or a veteran team or a team that wants to win now, there are not many teams not in need of a core player like this. There's a few that aren't, obviously, but most are certainly going to want to look into the situation. ... He asked me to take an open view here and collect information from every club."