Melvin: Trading Fielder, Braun would be 'tough one'
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he may need to sacrifice some of the team’s offense this winter to improve the pitching staff, so he was asked the obvious follow-up. Is he willing to trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder?
“Wow. That would be a tough one,” Melvin said. “I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t see that happening.”
The comment came Wednesday during Melvin’s annual year-end meeting with local reporters at Miller Park. Both Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash said what they have been saying for weeks, that in order to improve a team that finished 80-82 they will have to bolster a pitching staff that finished next-to-last in the National League with a 4.87 ERA, including dead last with a 5.37 starters’ ERA. Melvin said he wants to add at least two established starters.
The team’s most valuable pieces at the moment are Braun and Fielder, who combined in 2009 for more RBIs (255) than any duo in the Majors this season. Braun hit 32 home runs, joining Albert Pujols as the only players in history to belt at least 30 homers in each of their first three seasons. Fielder finished second in the NL with 46 home runs and tied Howard for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs.
“But it’s a 25-man — and, really, a 30-35 man — team,” Melvin said. “In fantasy baseball, you can dream about what you could get back for Prince or Ryan Braun. In reality, there’s not too many teams that can give up the package that we would really want that would guarantee you to be competitive.”
Ash said there have been spirited internal debates on the topic. Is there more value in a bona fide No. 1 starter who makes 30-plus starts and affects perhaps 20 other games by leaving the bullpen fresh? Or in an MVP candidate like Fielder who plays every inning of every game and has the potential to affect all 162?
“I’m going with the hitter,” Ash said.
In fact, Brewers officials have had internal discussions about whether Fielder could be locked into a longer-term deal, according to Melvin. He’s entering the second season of two-year contract through 2010 that buys out the first of Fielder’s three arbitration years. He will still be under Brewers control in 2011 but would hit the free agent market following that season.
Compare that to Braun, whose contract runs through 2015. If the Brewers could convince Fielder and agent Scott Boras to take an extension, it would give the Brewers a larger window in which to put the right pieces around their slugging duo.
“That’s something we have talked about with Mark [Attanasio, the team’s principal owner],” Melvin said. “We don’t have a plan for doing that at this time. You can say it’s in the back of your mind or whatever, but it’s coming more forward as a decision we have to make in two years’ time. …
“Mark, from an ownership standpoint, knows that’s a major decision that’s down the pike. It’s not next week, it’s not next month, but it probably comes up in our conversation every time we get together.”
In the short-term, the Brewers’ focus is on the pitching. Melvin knows that it won’t be easy to find solutions.
“There’s not any downtime this offseason, but I’m looking forward to it,” Melvin said. “It’s a challenge. I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m ready to improve the ballclub.”
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