Fielder's Brewers future in limbo

Fielder's Brewers future in limbo

MILWAUKEE -- Did Prince Fielder play his final home game in a Brewers uniform on Sunday? Even the slugger himself isn't sure.

The Brewers' biggest offseason questions revolve around Fielder, who is under club control for one more year before reaching free agency after the 2011 season. Do they trade him this winter to maximize his value, perhaps for a starting pitcher? Do they hold him for the start of '11, then shop him ahead of the Trade Deadline if the team gets off to a slow start? Or do they simply keep him through the end of his arbitration seasons and risk losing him for only Draft picks in return?

Whatever the answer, expect Fielder's name to appear early and often in offseason trade rumors. He's not sure what to expect.

"I don't know. I really wish I could tell you 100 percent," Fielder said. "That's out of my control. Anything can happen, so I'm just taking it like every other offseason."

He supplied the home fans with one last highlight in Sunday's 7-1 win over the Marlins, a long solo homer amid a four-run outburst in the third inning. After Fielder drew a walk in the bottom of the eighth in what might prove his final plate appearance as a Brewer at Miller Park, he was replaced by a pinch-runner amid another huge ovation and then a curtain call.

Fielder went to the top step of the dugout and raised his batting helmet in the air. He said the fans' sendoff, if that's what it ends up being, was "cool."

"They pumped me up a little bit," Fielder said. "I appreciate the love they gave me."

"Everybody understands the situation, him included," said teammate Ryan Braun. "I feel so fortunate to have had him hitting behind me for my first four years in the Major Leagues. I know that, personally, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish a lot of the things that I've done without him hitting behind me. For us as a team, he's been one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise in the short time he's been here."

The Brewers engaged Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, in discussions about a contract extension earlier this year, but were reportedly spurned after offering a deal in the neighborhood of five years and $100 million. There are no indications that those talks will be revived.

Asked whether he thought those discussions would be re-started, Fielder conceded, "probably not." He is comfortable with the way the discussion has been handled by both sides.

"It's a business," he said. "Sometimes, business can't be handled right away."

Milwaukee's first-round Draft pick in 2002 has been remarkably productive in his five-plus seasons in the Major Leagues. Fielder set a Brewers record with 50 home runs in 2007, helped lead the team to the National League Wild Card in '08 and then set another franchise record and tied for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs in '09.

This season has been more trying for Fielder, who is hitting .267 with 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .230 average with runners in scoring position. But he's kept his on-base percentage high at .403 thanks to 106 walks, most in the NL.

Teams were often content to work around Fielder and tangle with No. 5 hitter Casey McGehee, who has cashed in with 99 RBIs.

"I look back at Spring Training, and apparently there were contract negotiations and things like that, and that fell through," manager Ken Macha said of Fielder. "Emotions go through people that maybe affect what you're doing out there.

"Being able to accept that they're not going to throw you a pitch, for somebody that's relatively young, and wanting to do some things to get the contract that you want, sometimes gets you out of the game you should be playing."

Fielder assessed his own year.

"I'm on pace to play 161 games, so that's good. Unfortunately, I got sick one day," he said. "If I'm healthy, then that's a good year. Maybe not for the team, but personally. That's my goal, to be healthy and give us a chance."

Fielder spoke while packing the belongings of his locker into a big box to be shipped home to Orlando, Fla.

"It's no different than any offseason time," Fielder said. "The wife is back, packing up the apartment. It's just time to go home. ... It was great here. I had great times, met a lot of great friends and teammates. Now we'll see what happens."