The Brewers sign Prince Fielder to a two year deal worth $18 million. I like the move in that Prince gets his payday, so he's happy, but it's not enough money where he can just sit back and coast (or grow if you know what I mean). It's also a good move in that the Brewers get some payroll certainty for next year. No player on the Brewers is up for as big a payday as Fielder next year, now the Brewers don't need to worry about how much he's getting. This allows them the freedom to make moves with serious salary implications without being held for ransom by Prince's arbitration. And for those of you out there that are still calling for Prince to be traded, I believe this only increases his trade value. A) He is signed for the next two years at under market value. B) He is still under team control for three years. Ever since becoming a diehard Brewers fan in 2001, he had long served as the glimmer of hope on the horizon and I believe in many ways, he has been the savior of this franchise. He's provided the Brewers with a star whose name is recognizable, his performance on the field has been nothing short of spectacular, and the increased revenue he has helped provide (winning baseball, merchandise sales as a fan favorite etc...) has set the Brewers up for success for years to come. So say what you will about Fielder, just make sure you slip a "thank you" in there while you're at it.
Rickie Weeks avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one year $2.45 million deal. I'm not sure if that number is deserved, but it seems to be the going rate so I'm not going to get too worked up over the number. I ballparked Rickie's value at about $2 million which is what the Brewers offered him initially, so an additional 450K isn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Tom Haudricourt over at the Journal-Sentinel had a great article outlining some of the things that Weeks has been able to accomplish while "under achieving". After reading that article, it's hard to argue that Weeks has been as worthless as some fans believe. Does he need to improve his batting average? Of course, at the very least, it needs to be respectable (.260-.270) and ideally, he could realize some of that potential that had him batting .400+ in college. Whether Brewers fans realize this or not, but Rickie has made strides in improving his defense, and I believe another year will see him evolve into a serviceable 2nd baseman.
Corey Hart is the lone un-signed Brewer as we near arbitration. Assistant GM Gord Ash and Hart's agent Jeff Berry both agree that there is a disagreement on Corey's value. The Brewers offered $2.7 million while Hart is asking for $3.8 million. Where this number comes from is anyone's guess. .268/.300/.459 with 20HR 91RBI and 76R is worth $3.8 million? If Hart maintained his pace from April-July then I'd say hell yeah, but with his vanishing act when the Brewers needed him most, he needs another year under his belt before he starts overshooting his value. Jayson Werth, who I believe fits the Corey Hart mold AND had a better 2008 season than Corey, just signed a 2 year $10 million deal with the Phillies. The reason I bring this up is that Werth's base salary for 2009 is a mere $2 million (plus a $1 million signing bonus). So if you believe that Corey is worth $1.8 million more per year than Werth, I'd love to hear your reasoning.
And finally, the Brewers acquire Chase Wright from the Yankees for C/OF Eric Fryer. I don't know about other Brewers fans out there, but I'm pretty excited about this one. Since people like to focus on the negatives, everyone will come back to his performance against the Red Sox in which he gave up 4 consecutive home runs. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, he's a young pitcher and he was facing the Red Sox. It's not like he gave up four consecutive to the Pirates, it was against one of the most fearsome lineups in baseball. Looking at his numbers in the minors last year, you can't say that he doesn't have value. He's a lefty with a solid ERA and good groundball numbers (which is a great asset in the launching pad known as Miller Park). He's not a huge strikeout guy and his stuff resembles the typical lefty, but he's fairly young (he'll turn 26 on February 8th) and he provides a great option if one of our starters go down with an injury. While he hasn't had great success in the majors, he at least has major league experience, which is more than you can say about our current insurance plans at starter. He could be the guy that helps bridge the gap until Jeremy Jeffress, Cody Scarpetta, Zach Braddock and Jake Odorizzi are ready to break into the majors. With Mike Jones and Mark Rogers spending their entire professional careers battling injuries and former minor league pitcher of the year Will Inman going to San Diego in the Scott Linebrink trade, the Brewers farm system was left with few pitching prospects at the AA and AAA levels. I think they're 1 or 2 prospects who are near-ready away from being considered deep with pitchers. A trade with a team like the Detroit Tigers, who have 7 starters, would be a step in the right direction. I'd love to see Zach Miner or Armando Galarraga in a Brewers uni.