So, Mssrs. Attanasio, Melvin, Macha, and anyone else who's got a vote in this (potential) decision:
PLEASE DO NOT TRADE PRINCE FIELDER THIS OFF-SEASON.
Now, it's possible that my pleading is being influenced by the results of yesterday's season-ender vs. The Upright Citizens Brigade in St. Louis, when the big man capped off a preposterous individual season with a two-homer, three-RBI day. In the process, Prince jacked his OPS to a new single-season high (1.014), both for him and the Milwaukee Brewers franchise.
The way I see it, next season is going to play out one of two ways, and, whatever path the 2010 season takes, I want Prince around. Here's why:
(1) For reasons I'm still not able to fully comprehend, the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers went 80-82 while running out two starting pitchers who posted below-replacement level numbers while making 30+ starts. According to FanGraphs, Jeff Suppan's WAR for the season was (-0.5), and, not to be outdone, Braden "B.P." Looper came up with a WAR of (-0.7). These are stunningly bad numbers for a team that came within a game of .500.
Just for comparison's sake, consider a couple of other teams who finished around .500: the White Sox and Reds. Here's the Sox rotation:
- Mark Buehrle: 3.4 WAR
- John Danks: 2.9 WAR
- Gavin Floyd: 4.6 WAR
- Jose Contreras (before being dealt to the Rockies): 2.3 WAR
- Clayton Richard (before being dealt to the Padres): 1.3 WAR
- Johnny Cueto: 1.4 WAR
- Aaron Harang: 2.3 WAR
- Bronson Arroyo: 1.6 WAR
- Homer Bailey: 1.3 WAR
- Micah Owings (in 20 starts): (-0.4) WAR
- Justin Lehr (11 starts): (-0.5) WAR
This is all a long way of saying: the Brewers came within a whisker of .500 while two of the mainstays of the rotation were having historically-awful seasons. If Soup and Loop can come anywhere near their career averages next year, and if Manny Parra can get his head screwed on straight, and if Yo Gallardo continues to develop, and if Bushie's boo-boo gets better ... I'm not sayin' it's a lock, but stranger things have happened. And if we're going to make any noise next year, we need the big man anchoring the middle of the line-up.
(2) Of course, it's much more likely that we'll see more of the same next year. Odds are: Soup continues his death spiral; Looper gives you (approximately) replacement-level pitching; Manny is Manny; and Yo remains solid to very good. There's not going to be much pitching available via the free agent market, and teams will be lining up to overpay the few serviceable pitchers who are out there.
If that's the case, we're looking at near-.500 ball again next year. And if that's the case, I'm gonna need a reason to tune in every night.
(Anthony Witrado-style one-sentence paragraph comin' up!)
Prince Fielder is that reason.
The guy is a force of nature. Before the season started, I wrote that Prince had established his high water mark in '07, and that it was silly to expect him to put up comparable numbers -- and then he went out and compiled a .299/.412/.602 line, with 46 bombs and 141 driven in. He's put up two of the four 1.000+ OPS seasons in Brewers' history (Braun's got one [in '07, too], and Molitor had the other in 1987). Prince has the franchise record for homers in a year (and now he's got the No. 2 slot, as well) and for RsBI.
This is purely selfish, I know, but I want to see what Prince can do over the next two years. Can he hit 55 homers? Can he out-OPS Pujols for a year? Can he drive in 150? After this year, who knows? I thought I knew what his ceiling was. Now, I'm not so sure.
Point is: if your team isn't going to be in contention, you need to have a once-in-a-generation player to put butts in the seats and eyes on the TV. Prince did that this season, and he can do it again next year. Please give him the chance. Please, please, please, please, please.