With Braun signed, Fielder's future unknown
MILWAUKEE – Prince Fielder says he's ecstatic Ryan Braun received a new contract guaranteeing an additional $105 million over five years and he hopes the Brewers organization will make an effort to sign him to a long-term deal.
"I'm proud of Braunie. He's an unbelievable player and now he's just super rich. Yeah, man, it's awesome. I'm happy for him," Fielder said Friday before Milwaukee played the Houston Astros.
Fielder is eligible for free agency at the end of the season and it's expected as a Scott Boras client he'll seek out a contract that dwarfs the one Braun just signed on Thursday. Fielder said he hoped Braun's new deal won't take Milwaukee out of the running to re-sign him.
"I'm not sure. You never know. If they have this much to spend, you never know. I hope not," Fielder said. "I hope they have a little left for me, but this year, my contract's good for this year, I'm happy about it and ready to play baseball."
Fielder is making $15.5 million this season, the highest-single season contract for an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing Mark Teixeira's $12.5 million agreement with Atlanta in 2008. Teixeira went on to sign a $180 million, eight-year contract with the Yankees the following offseason.
Fielder is hitting .368 with three homers and an NL-best 19 RBIs so far and said from the beginning of spring training he wouldn't let talks about his future distract him. He maintained that again Friday and said he isn't thinking about his upcoming big payday whenever it happens.
"I've already done that in years past. It's just play baseball time," Fielder said. "My family, we'll be able to eat for a while anyway. Now it's just play baseball and see what happens."
Braun signed a seven-year deal in 2008 for $45 million. His newest contract runs through 2020 and the Brewers are committed to paying him at least $145.5 million.
The agreement includes a $10 million signing bonus payable in four equal installments each April 1 from 2012 through 2015. Of his salary, $4 million annually from 2016-18 will be deferred without interest and $3 million a year in both 2019 and 2020. The deferred money will be paid in equal installments each July 1 from 2022 to 2031.
Braun also has a mutual option for 2021 that's worth $15 million and could escalate to as much as $20 million based on awards such as MVP, Silver Slugger or Gold Glove. The money in the escalator also would be deferred.
It's the biggest and longest deal to date for a franchise that's already committed major money on extensions with right fielder Corey Hart ($26.5 million, three years), ace Yovani Gallardo ($30.1 million, five years) and second baseman Rickie Weeks ($38.5 million, four years).
Braun, who is hitting .359 with five homers and 12 RBIs, said he'd love to keep playing with Fielder in Milwaukee.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he loves it here. I know he's enjoyed his time here. I can say that we've never had more fun playing together than we have since the beginning of spring training," Braun said. "We're really enjoying baseball right now. I know that this is a place he'd love to stay, but again, that depends on what happens here in the future, and what he really feels like is in the best interest of himself and his family."
General manager Doug Melvin said Thursday that Braun and Fielder's situations are different.
"Prince is a free agent at the end of the year. Prince wants to win this year. It doesn't change from what we talked about in the spring — we both want him to have a big year, a monster year," Melvin said. "With Ryan, with Prince, we feel we have two of the best middle-of-the-order hitters in all of baseball. I think the numbers are showing that even this year.
"They're similar in that they're two of the most talented players in the game, but then they're different in where they are with their contract status."
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.