Melvin: No Fielder offer this week
The Brewers have no plans to add intrigue to their hometown General Manager Meetings by extending a first offer to free agent slugger Prince Fielder.
“We won’t do that here,” Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said after checking into the Pfister Hotel, the site of meetings of baseball’s GMs and owners that run through Thursday.
Instead, Melvin said he is open to a sit-down this week with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, but apparently will continue a wait-and-see approach with the Brewers’ biggest free agent since CC Sabathia left for the Yankees three years ago.
Melvin was the first of his colleagues to appear in the Pfister lobby on Monday. He reserved a suite to use for meetings with agents or executives with other clubs. A few hours earlier, Boras passed through the lobby on the way to a late-morning workout.
Principal owner Mark Attanasio vowed that the Brewers will be “participating in the sweepstakes” for Fielder, who is considered along with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols the winter’s top free agents. Just how they participate remains to be seen. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Fielder’s high price would fit into Milwaukee’s budget, considering that since Melvin and Boras last engaged in serious talks, the team has moved ahead with big-money extensions for outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and pitcher Yovani Gallardo.
The Brewers also seem reluctant to extend a hard offer that Boras could use to drive-up Fielder’s price for other suitors.
Should Fielder sign elsewhere, the Brewers’ primary in-house option for first base is Mat Gamel, a 26-year-old who batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 128 games at Triple-A Nashville last season.
Melvin is expecting a relatively quiet week at the Pfister Hotel. Last year, the highlight of the GM Meetings was a trade that sent Dan Uggla, a Type A free agent with one year remaining of club control, from the Marlins to the Braves.
The difference this year is MLB’s pending labor agreement, expected to include changes to the way teams are compensated for ranked free agents who leave to sign elsewhere. A change to those rules would change the way teams value certain trade and free agent targets.
“I think some people are waiting until the labor deal goes through, if it goes through,” Melvin said. “I think that’s one of the keys. The other thing, it’s hard to make trades at these meetings because of physicals.”
Teams are instructed not to announce trades and signings until the players have passed physical exams.
The Brewers’ primary targets are middle infielders — most notably, they need a starting shortstop — and late-inning relievers to set-up closer John Axford. Melvin has already been in contact with representatives for veteran relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, both of whom are coming off solid seasons in Milwaukee.
“We probably are going to be late in signing players,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if there’s bargains at the start. … Tell me an early signing that’s a good deal.”
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