Crowning a new Prince

Posted: November 13, 2011 by AisoRed in MLB

Prince Fielder

After a season in which the Milwaukee Brewers reached a franchise-record in wins and made it all the way to the NLCS, General Manager Doug Melvin now faces new challenges for the 2012 season. During the previous offseason, we saw Melvin empty the cupboard, unloading coveted prospects for much needed starting pitching in the form of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. With the 2012-13 offseason already upon us, the Brewers will look to replace the best power hitter to call Miller Park home for most of the past decade.

The question is: Who can fill Prince Fielder’s shoes?

There is no doubt that the top two free agents on the market this offseason are both first basemen. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols will look to sign top dollar deals with clubs willing to spend $20 million plus a year over an extended period of time. Teams like the Brewers, however, cannot afford to sign such expensive players and expect to field a winning ball club. Let’s take a look at a few other free agent first basemen that might be more attractive options for a sub-$100 million payroll team.

Carlos Pena – In the 2011 season with the Chicago Cubs, Pena batted only .225, but has shown the same power he has had the previous 4 years with the Tampa Bay Rays. What’s not to like about 28 HR and 80 RBI? Not to mention the fact that Pena is a left-handed power bat which the Brewers now lack with the departure of Prince Fielder. The asking price for Pena may be a bit high for the Brewers’ liking though. He made just shy of $10 million last year and, being a Scott Boras client, will be trying to get a deal close to the same one he signed with Chicago.

Derrek Lee – Lee was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Pittsburgh Pirates right before the trade deadline this past year. In 28 games with the Pirates, he saw some success, posting a .337/.398/.584 and his 1.4 UZR is a huge step up from Prince Fielder’s –5.1 from last year. Even though Derrek Lee would cost less than Carlos Pena, he is three years older and would probably be more attractive to an AL team who could play him at DH in addition to 1B.

Casey Kotchman – After a miserable 2010 with the Seattle Mariners, the Tampa Bay Rays took a chance on him with a one-year, $750,000 deal on a minor-league invite to spring training. Talk about a bargain player. The 2011 season saw Kotchman posting a career-high .306 batting average and he was also a finalist for the Gold Glove award. His fielding percentage was the best among all first basemen and he posted a slightly better UZR than Derrek Lee. Some concerns surrounding Kotchman include his lack of power and his limited success at the plate. He will be getting a much bigger payday for the 2012 season and might be in line for a multi-year deal.

Some other options may come from the inside. Casey McGehee could be given a chance to bounce back and play first base after his dismal 2011 season. Mat Gamel could also get a shot at the starting job, however, Nashville Sounds’ manager Don Money had this to say about the first baseman:

“If he can get his head right, and that’s the thing,” Money said. “He’s hard-headed. He doesn’t carry himself well. You have to carry yourself like a professional, and he doesn’t do it and I’ve said it to him.”

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

If the Brewers do sign one of these guys to play first base next year, they will mostly miss what Prince Fielder does best: Provide protection for Braun and knock balls 486 feet. They will not miss his poor defense.


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