On Opening Day a year ago, even Prince Fielder's Milwaukee Brewers teammates knew the power-hitting first baseman was on his way out of town as soon as the 2011 season ended.
Milwaukee made a multiyear pitch to keep Fielder prior to the season, but nothing got done, which underscored the fact there was no way the Brewers were going to keep Fielder.
"When you have a player like Prince, headed to free agency, really the only way you retain him is if he has a bad year,'' Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf said. "If he has a great year, the market is huge and the bar (for the contract value) gets set out of reach. Nobody's at fault. Both sides did what was best for them.''
And what clubs know is that what's best for them is to gamble on the future with a known product and sign a player in advance of him going on the open market, rather than taking the risk of waiting and seeing how the free-agent market will drive salaries.
That's why big spenders like the New York Yankees and Boston Re...