If the Brewers have begun discussions with agent Scott Boras about first baseman Prince Fielder’s contract, club officials were not willing to talk about it on Thursday.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash returned to camp on Thursday after an absence all day Wednesday. Asked specifically whether it had anything to do with Fielder, Melvin said only “we took a little trip.”
Asked where that trip took him, Melvin said again: “We took a little trip.” Ash wouldn’t dish, either, joking to a reporter that, “we don’t have to tell you guys everything.”
Fielder himself was more forthcoming, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Brewers officials indeed met with Boras but did not make an offer.
It made sense that the trip took place since Melvin, Ash and principal owner Mark Attanasio spent some time last week discussing how the club would approach talks with Boras, who is based in Los Angeles. Melvin has said repeatedly this spring that if and when negotiations begin, they would happen in private.
Fielder is under contract for 2010 and has a year of arbitration eligibility remaining for 2011, but he has been a topic of internal conversation for Melvin & Co. because the Brewers have to figure out how best to handle the next two years. If the sides cannot work out an extension — Fielder, after all, has the same right to test free agency as any player — then the Brewers would have to at least consider whether it makes sense to weigh trade offers.
The last time they faced this situation was in 2006 with left fielder Carlos Lee. When Lee’s camp turned down a four-year offer worth about $48 million, the Brewers traded him to the Rangers for a package that included closer Francisco Cordero rather than lose him via free agency and get nothing but Draft picks in return.
The difference is that Fielder is still two years removed from free agent eligibility, and both sides have made the point that there is no rush to negotiate.
While that business matter continues to simmer, the San Francisco Giants took care of their own business with Fielder on Thursday afternoon when Barry Zito’s first pitch to Fielder plunked him right in the middle of the back. It was almost certainly a punctuation mark to Fielder’s choreographed celebration with his teammates at home plate after his 12th-inning home run beat the Giants last Sept. 6. The Giants didn’t appreciate the show because they were still fighting for the playoffs.
Nearly six months later, Fielder simply flipped the baseball that had struck him back in Zito’s direction and trotted to first base. Casey McGehee then struck out to end the top of the first inning.
“I hit the home run. Hit me,” Fielder said after coming out of the game. “If that’s what you’ve got to do, then that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Fielder said he had no regrets about the September celebration. He was proud of himself for staying calm and avoiding a scene like the one that unfolded at Dodger Stadium last August, when television cameras caught Fielder charging toward the Dodgers clubhouse in search of former teammate Guillermo Mota, who had plunked him with a pitch. Mota, coincidentally, signed over the winter with the Giants.
“Every time someone does something I’m always the one videotaped. So I’m trying to be a good guy,” Fielder said. “I [don’t] want kids to see me that way so I’m trying to maintain. Unfortunately, some people like to test it sometimes. I’m working on it. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I took my base and everything was fine.”