Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 11/16/11
By Andrew Wagner FOXSportsWisconsin.comMILWAUKEE Though it may possibly be the worst-kept secret in all of baseball, it's looking more and more likely that Prince Fielder will not be back in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform next season. Brewers principal owner and chairman Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin met with Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, for approximately an hour Tuesday during baseball's owner's meetings at a downtown Milwaukee hotel.The two sides didn't exchange figures and the Brewers have shown no signs of increasing from the offer of 100 million over five years, which they proposed about two years ago, leaving Fielder to explore the market and the Brewers to wait and plot their next move.Parting ways with Fielder may not be desired, but ultimately, it is the wisest move for a franchise with limited revenue streams in baseball's smallest market.All along, Attanasio has made a point of maintaining flexibility when it came to payroll for his team which made the playoffs last season while drawing over three million fans for the third time in the last four years.Milwaukee came into the season with an opening day payroll of approximately 85.5 million a number that increased when the salaries of players like Francisco Rodriguez and Jerry Hairston, Jr. were added into the mix at midseason.Attanasio has said in the past that 85-90 million is an appropriate number, considering the market, but with players already under contract for next season accounting for an estimated 70 and the need to retool other positions, adding at least 20 million to the ledger to cover Fielder might be too much for a small-market franchise to bear, even in the best of times.Still, Attanasio says that much like after the 2008 season, when the Brewers looked for a way to keep CC Sabathia in Milwaukee after a stellar half-season, there is always room for creative accounting should Fielder be open to a deal."One of the things I learned is how you manage your payroll has to be opportunity-driven," Attanasio said. "In other words, there is a certain amount of money we can spend on players but to just spend it for the sake spending it hasn't worked out well for us."That statement should serve as a warning for those under the assumption that the Brewers will look to replace Fielder's numbers with a high-priced free agent. Melvin did meet Wednesday with Barry Meister who represents free agent shortstop Clint Barmes and plans to meet with Dan Lozano, who represents Jimmy Rollins.Melvin also said had a very brief conversation with the agent for Jose Reyes, but those talks aren't expected to get very far."We're balancing the finances of his salary vs. filling holes on our ball club," Melvin said. "I think there is a point this year where we're going to have to give some younger players a chance and an opportunity. Some may fail and some may succeed. But I'd rather have them fail at 400,000 then go out and sign somebody for a large number and have that individual fail."If Fielder does leave as expected, Melvin's first choice for a replacement will probably come from within the organization. Mat Gamel has been a highly touted prospect, but with no spot for him at the big league level, he's been stuck in a holding pattern at Class AAA Nashville, limited to occasional bench duty with the major league club.He moved from first to third base before last season and has shown enough improvement there that Melvin is strongly leaning towards giving him first crack at the spot when Spring Training opens next season.The 26-year-old appeared in 10 games last season, hitting just .115 (3-for-26). At Nashville, Gamel hit .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBI, but is out of minor league options, leaving the Brewers with having to risk losing him before finding out if he's finally ready for the majors."My gut feeling now is to give Gamel a chance," Melvin said. "He's hit wherever he has played in the minor leagues and has markedly improved at first base. I'd hate to not give him a chance and then he gets a chance with somebody else and becomes a good player."No matter what happens with Fielder over the coming weeks, both Attanasio and Melvin think the Brewers will be in a position to win a second consecutive NL Central championship. "We have a few holes to fill but some of the key ones are filled," Melvin said. "We're fortunate to have those filled. There are challenges to try to balance the timing of filling our holes."The Brewers return all five members of the starting rotation, their closer, John Axford; Most Valuable Player candidate Ryan Braun, as well as right-fielder Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and up-and-coming catcher Jonathan Lucroy."We think we can compete even if we aren't able to get Prince back," Attanasio said. "Doug and I never felt like we were "all-in" last year. I know that became a popular way to describe what we were doing and that we were going for it but we looked at the team as being very strong for this year and we think it will be."
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