The team formally announced its two-year pact with the slugger on Friday evening, whose new contract buys out the first two of Fielder's three seasons of arbitration eligibility and allows both sides to forego that sometimes sticky process this winter and next.
General manager Doug Melvin couldn't confirm the deal when he met with reporters at Miller Park on Thursday afternoon, but by morning came word that Fielder had passed a physical and completed the deal. According to two reports, Fielder is guaranteed $18 million in the contract -- $6.5 million in 2009 and $11.5 million in 2010 -- plus a $1 million signing bonus.
He can reportedly earn an additional $250,000 in each season if Fielder reaches 500 plate appearances. A healthy Fielder should easily reach that milestone if he stays healthy; he has had at least 648 plate appearances in all three of his full seasons with the Brewers.
The team made its official announcement just before the start of "Bob Uecker's Winter Warm-Up," a variety show-style event at the Riverside Theater on Friday night. Brewers players, including Fielder, were to attend the event, at which Fielder would be available to reporters.Fielder's new deal was one of two set in place by the Brewers this week. The team has also reached a preliminary agreement with infielder Craig Counsell to return for 2009. Melvin did not expect to have anything official to announce on Counsell until next week. Fielder, 24, is just entering arbitration-eligibility and is under Brewers control through the end of the 2011 season. But signing a two-year pact now would offer the player a bit of security and the team the benefit of payroll certainty. It would also allow both sides to avoid the sometimes uncomfortable arbitration process this year and next. "We weren't going to lose [Fielder], but it's a matter if knowing what his salary is for the next two years," Melvin said. "That's the reason we are engaged in those conversations now." The Brewers had renewed Fielder's contract before each of the past two seasons after being unable to come to terms with his agent, Scott Boras, on the player's worth. Fielder was particularly upset in March 2008, when the Brewers, using a club formula for their pre-arbitration players, assigned him a $670,000 contract. He vowed at the time that, "my time is going to come." With his entry into the salary arbitration process -- generally, though not always, reserved for players with more than three but fewer than six seasons of Major League service -- that time arrived. Fielder and Boras were seeking an $8 million salary in 2009, while the Brewers filed Tuesday for $6 million.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.