With his second trip to the All Star game now certain, Brewers RF Corey Hart just added a few million dollars to his 2011 salary. Who knows what he will demand in arbitration this coming off-season, but my guess is around $8 million. That’s a shiny nickel, to be sure. But I think the Brewers should not blink and pick up his deal.

However, they shouldn’t stop there. They should move him to first base — his original position — and find a team who can take Prince Fielder off their hands. There is no question in my mind that Hart will not be as productive as Fielder. But with Prince likely to make ~ $13 million next year, I think the gap between Corey’s numbers and Prince’s totals won’t be worth the extra $5 million Fielder will cost.

Let’s say both players revert to their means: Hart posting his present .811 career OPS in 2011, and Prince clocking in with his career average .925 OPS next season. I am not sure those .114 OPS points are worth $5 million, particularly when that money can be used to fill other gaps that can make the overall team better. Moreover, Fielder will likely bring more in trade than Corey, even considering Prince’s value is likely to be depressed given his less-than-stellar 2010 (at least to date), his defensive shortcomings and the likelihood that his genes probably are going to shorten the length of his effectiveness.

Some have suggested trading both players as a way to gain more prospects and save even more payroll. I am not against this. However, at some point the team becomes far less competitive, and that will hurt attendance. The Brewers can still be credible on the field if they deal some of their offense as long as they gain more consistent pitching. I think they can best do that by taking what they can for Prince, installing Hart in his place and using the savings to plug other holes.

 

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