Fielder Says Deal Not Fair

By Tom Haudricourt
Updated: March 3, 2008

PHOENIX — Last spring, when the Milwaukee Brewers renewed Prince Fielder’s contract at their terms, he basically said, “No big deal.” This spring, it is a big deal.

Fielder made it clear Sunday that he was not pleased that his contract was renewed for the second straight year. Using the system they rely on to determine the salaries of all players with less than three years of experience, the Brewers assigned Fielder a salary of $670,000 for 2008.

“I’m not happy about it at all, the fact that they’ve renewed me two years in a row,” said Fielder, whose salary was renewed at $415,000 the previous spring.

“There are a lot of guys with the same amount of time I have who have done a lot less than me and are getting paid a lot more. But my time is going to come and it’s coming quick, too.”

Fielder became the youngest player in major-league history to sock 50 home runs in a season, at age 23 in 2007. He batted .288 and drove in 119 runs while compiling a .618 slugging percentage.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he knew of no player with Fielder’s service time (2 years 68 days) who has signed a contract for more money this spring. Melvin seemed taken aback when told that Fielder expressed unhappiness to reporters.

“He didn’t indicate that to us,” said Melvin, who also renewed the contracts of Ryan Braun and Corey Hart. “We talked to him this morning. “I think our system is a fair system, when you look at it compared to anybody else’s system.”

Fielder wouldn’t say which players he should be compared to but it’s no secret that he and agent Scott Boras kept an eye on the contract situation of Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, who is a year ahead of Fielder. Howard’s contract was renewed at $900,000 last year, and he won a $10 million salary in arbitration this spring.

Fielder, who is eligible for arbitration after the 2008 season, has played in 354 major-league games, with a .280 batting average, 80 home runs and 210 RBI. At the time of his $900,000 renewal, Howard had played in 266 games with a .300 batting average, 82 home runs and 217 RBI.

“You look industry-wide and see how other players with similar performances are treated,” Boras said. “The reason for the renewal was that Prince felt that standard wasn’t met.”

Melvin noted that Howard was NL rookie of the year in 2005 and most valuable player in 2006. Fielder finished seventh in rookie of the year balloting in 2006 and third in MVP voting last season.

Had Fielder won the MVP award last year, Melvin said his salary would have approached Howard’s 2007 salary, under the club’s incentive-based system.

“That’s the one thing about the system; it doesn’t matter what other guys make,” Melvin said. “We don’t look at what other players make and we don’t look at what other systems are.”

Asked if the renewal might compromise any future talks with the club, Fielder said, “I’m not going to talk about that now. That’s between me and my agent. He’s handling it.

“I’m not going to let it affect the way I play. I’ve got to go play. That’s my job. We’re done with the contract stuff. I’ll just go play baseball now.”

Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio have talked this spring about offering multi-year contracts to some of the young players on the club. Asked if he expected Fielder’s unhappiness to affect any such dealings, Melvin said: “You hope it doesn’t. Prince is going to make a lot of money in this game.”

The Brewers renewed Braun’s contract at $455,000 and Hart’s at $444,000. Braun made the minimum salary of $380,000 last season, when he batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 RBI and won the NL rookie of the year award.

Asked if he had any hard feelings about the renewal, Braun said, “Of course not. I understand the system. You have to respect the way they do it. That’s just the way it is.

“I’m not worried about it. It’ll all even out.”

Hart, who made $395,000 last season when he batted .295 with 24 homers and 81 RBI, wasn’t worked up about his renewal, either.

“There are no hard feelings, either way,” Hart said. “It’s just part of it. You don’t always agree.”

Hart, who is eligible for arbitration after the season, said he would be open to a multi-year offer from the Brewers.

“I wouldn’t be mad if they did,” he said. “I’d like to be here awhile.”