Prince arrives as focus turns to on-field matters
Questions about looming free agency begin for Crew slugger
PHOENIX -- A smiling Prince Fielder arrived in Brewers camp Sunday morning eager to play baseball. Too bad he was surrounded by reporters eager to talk about his steady march toward free agency."You guys can talk about it," Fielder said, "but I'm going to give you my answer." And that answer? "I don't know how to do all that [business] stuff," Fielder said. "I'm playing baseball." In other words, he's not going to offer any updates about his thinking. "Pretty much," Fielder said with a grin. "But you can ask." He can bet they will ask as Spring Training turns into Fielder's 10th season in professional baseball and his final one under Brewers control. Talks about an extension with Milwaukee went nowhere, so the team signed Fielder to a $15.5 million contract for 2011 -- a record for an arbitration-eligible player -- and he is on a path to reach the free-agent market for the first time in fall. Fielder would rather focus on the Brewers' on-field business between now and then, but it's difficult for everybody else to avoid wondering what kind of interest he'll fetch on the open market. Fielder won't be 27 until May, and he's already belted 192 home runs (including a 50-homer season in 2007), driven in 536 (including a 141-RBI year in 2009) and posted two years with an OPS of better than 1.000. He would have been the best bat available on next winter's market had fellow first baseman Albert Pujols and the Cardinals been able to reach a deal before Pujols' deadline last week. Now it appears that both will hit the marketplace at the same time.
Position analysis• Manager
• First base
• Second base