Brewers fans may not want to read this one, nor fans of the team who is going to sign Prince. You're probably not going to enjoy what I'm going to say here.
As I did last time, I will be looking at first how much Prince is worth, and how much he is going to get.
So how much is Prince Fielder worth, right now? First, it is probably important to note that he is not, in fact, as good as many believe. Don't get me wrong, the guy rakes: three seasons of a 157 or better OPS+, and he's a pretty consistent threat to get on base 40% of the time while pushing 40 home runs with a healthy average. His value is bogged down, however, by all of the things you would expect: he is a big guy (listed at 5'11", 275), and this negatively affects all aspects of his game. He is a terrible fielder, averaging -8 rtot since 2006, and he's even worse as a baserunner. Nobody would be surprised to hear that since 2006 he has an average baserunning value of -5.
Fielder's last three years have produced WARs of 6.1, 2.7, and 5.2, an average of 4.7. UZR has been more kind to Fielder, and as a result his FanGraphs WAR since 2009 is an average of 5.1. I don't mean to take anything away from Fielder, because the dude can hit; but it becomes apparent once you look past the hitting numbers that the guy isn't really an MVP-type, but more of an All-Star type -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
For our purposes here, let's say that Fielder is a 5.0 WAR player. Considering he's only had two seasons above 3.8, that might even be high, but he's more likely to get paid for what he is capable of, so we'll use 5.
The obvious issue with Fielder is his body type. Fielder is a big guy -- like, really big. He has easily the worst body in MLB right now, and big guys don't age well; that's just a fact. For every David Ortiz there's a Mo Vaughn. For every Jim Thome there's an Adam Dunn. Nobody who discusses Fielder can do so without mentioning that body. It is almost certain that he will not
hold up as long as another player of that value type who is in shape.
Ryan Campbell of FanGraphs recently did a study of guys he considered 'heavy' (3.25 pounds per inch of height) versus the average, and found some pretty striking results:
Heavy guys do, in fact, age noticeably worse. To put the chart into simple numbers, here are the ages 27-34 for a heavy player, with 1.0 representing full, peak value, and the other numbers representing a portion of that:
As you can see, the aging curve on heavy players is brutal. If we apply that to Fielder right now, his projected value in the next seven years is going to look like:
By the time Fielder turns 35, he won't even be an average player anymore, at least according to the average aging trend for players of his body type. And, keep in mind, that his 'body type' is actually much worse than most in that sample. 3.25 lbs per inch of height would make a 6' player weigh 235 pounds: Fielder is listed at 5'11" and 275, and he could even be shorter and heavier than those figures.
Most industry pundits have Fielder getting a six-year deal, though Fielder's agent is Scott Boras, so he'll likely get... six years. Using the above data, in the next six years, Fielder can be projected to amass (fat joke) 24.3 WAR over that span. At $5 MM per win, that's $121.5 MM that he is worth as far as signing him, or an average annual value (AAV) of $20.25 MM.
What is he going to get, though?
Three years ago, the Yankees and Red Sox got into a bidding war for Mark Teixeira. The Yankees ended up winning, and gave Teixeira $180 MM over eight years, an AAV of $22.5. While Teixeira was a better player then that Fielder is now, he was two years older, and this was several years ago, so don't be surprised to see Fielder take anywhere from $23 MM to $25 MM per year. Probably the most cut and dry, easiest contract Fielder could take could be six years and $150 MM. If this happens, a team that signs Fielder would be throwing away approximately $30 MM.
Even more striking is the potential that a team could sign Fielder for seven, or even eight years, with a payout as high as $160 MM - $180 MM. If Fielder plays out to the average big guy projections, he will essentially be done providing value after six years, so a team investing that heavily in Fielder could be in to lose some $50 MM. Tread carefully, Washington.
So there you have it. According to average trends (and keep in mind that Fielder will almost certainly either exceed these or fall short of them; but I wish to reiterate that he is as likely to do one as the other), the value that Fielder can be expected to produce warrants $121.5 MM over the next six years. Anything more than that, in either years or dollars, is a significant risk for the team, and this is something that needs to be taken into account before anything is decided with Prince.
Expected length of contract: six years
Projected value for those years: $121.5 million
Expected salary for those years: $150 million