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01/18/11 5:58 PM EST
Prince signs historic contract to avoid arbitration
One-year, $15.5 million deal richest for an arb-eligible player
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- "It's cool," Prince Fielder said Tuesday after agreeing to a $15.5 million contract for 2011. He may not have known, but it's also historic. The Brewers' one-year agreement with their star first baseman gave Fielder the richest single-season contract in baseball history for a non-free-agent player in arbitration, eclipsing Mark Teixeira's $12.5 million pact with the Braves in 2008. Roger Clemens signed with the Astros for $18 million in 2005, but that was different -- Clemens was a free agent who had accepted an offer of arbitration. Fielder's deal is also historic in that he will earn the highest single-season salary in Brewers history, $2 million more than is due organizational newcomer Zack Greinke next season. Fielder is in his final year of Brewers control before reaching free agency. "I'm very happy we were able to get the deal done, and now all of that's taken care of," Fielder said from his home in Orlando, Fla. "I really wasn't thinking of all the scenarios too much. I'm just happy it's done now and I can go play baseball." The Brewers also avoided arbitration with left-hander Manny Parra when the sides agreed to a $1.2 million, one-year deal on Tuesday, leaving three arbitration-eligible players unsigned: second baseman Rickie Weeks, starter Shaun Marcum and reliever Kameron Loe. Fielder, though, is in the books. He received a $5 million raise to $15.5 million. "It's a big number. We're expecting Prince to go out there and have a big year," said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who handled negotiations with Fielder's agent, Scott Boras. "He's had some big years in the past for us," Melvin said. "He led the league in walks last year, and I think he showed an unselfishness in that regard by taking walks and maybe sacrificing some of the power. If you go by what he's done, he's had a very good year and then an off year, then a very good year and a little bit of an off year. So if you go by that docket, he'll have a very big year for us [in 2011]." SI.com's Jon Heyman was first to report Fielder's base salary, and also reported that Fielder would earn $100,000 for winning National League MVP honors, $75,000 for runner-up and $50,000 for third place, plus $50,000 for being elected to start the All-Star Game or $25,000 for being selected by National League manager Bruce Bochy or the players. Fielder would also get $25,000 for winning NL Championship Series MVP and $50,000 for World Series MVP. Fielder earned $10.5 million in 2010 while slugging through what was by his own very high standards a down season, batting .261 with 32 home runs, 83 RBIs and an .871 OPS. He'd driven in 141 runs with a 1.014 OPS the year before. Earlier last year, Melvin was engaged in talks with Boras about a multi-year contract for Fielder, but those discussions did not progress. They focused exclusively on a one-year agreement in recent weeks, according to Melvin, who could not say whether the multi-year talks could be re-opened now that a 2011 contract is in place. "We haven't addressed that," Melvin said. "And if we did, we wouldn't comment." Said Boras: "I'm an attorney for the players -- I listen and I take information and I give my clients advice. I never put us in a position not to listen, but there is a time for that. Certainly, once the season begins I like to have a player focused on his play." Did Fielder allow himself to think Tuesday about his next payday? "Of course you think about that," he said. "That's just a big part of your career, when you sign a long-term deal. That's a big deal, so of course you think about it. "But the thing right now is I'm enjoying being signed for this year, and I'm getting ready for spring." Even a few months ago, it seemed unlikely that Fielder and the Brewers would be together for 2011. Considering Fielder's looming free agency, the lack of progress in talks about a contract extension and the Brewers' dire need for pitching, you had to wonder whether the team would be forced to trade its star first baseman. Brewers fans gave Fielder what felt like a parting ovation during the 2010 home finale. Instead, Melvin was able to acquire Marcum from the Blue Jays and Greinke from the Royals without parting with Fielder. Now, the Brewers appear poised to contend in 2011. "Like I always said, I was expecting to still be playing with the Brewers," Fielder said. "I'm still under contract with them, I wasn't a free agent or anything, and all offseason I was expecting to come back to them." Fielder's contract overshadowed the Brewers' other bit of business on Tuesday. Parra gets a $1.2 million base salary and can earn $50,000 for making the All-Star team. He made $440,000 last season and was 3-10 with a 5.02 ERA, bounced to the Brewers' bullpen for the third consecutive season. Parra did find some success in relief, with a 2.39 ERA in 26 appearances. He struck out 2.73 batters per walk as a reliever, versus 1.83 strikeouts to walks in his 16 starts.