Prince Fielder hasn’t played in a Major League Baseball game since 2016, yet the former Milwaukee Brewers slugger could be the league’s highest paid player this season and as owners and players attempt to reach an agreement to salvage the 2020 season in the wake of a global pandemic, the six-time All-Star might just have his Bobby Bonilla-like guaranteed contract to thank.
With the most recent proposal approved by owners and awaiting verdict from the players, it seems all signs are currently pointing to an 82-game season and a brief Spring Training, which would cut the typical 162-game season essentially in half. The players have already agreed to cut their salaries in half, however the owners are looking for a larger cut, since they are expecting a 40 percent drop in revenue without fans in attendance. But you know who doesn’t have to worry about getting paid during all of the back and forth contracts negotiations: players who were released early from their guaranteed contracts, like 36-year-old Prince Fielder.
Fielder, who could bash the long ball as well as anyone about a decade ago, spent 12 seasons with the Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers before a neck injury forced him to end his career in 2016. He finished with over 300 home runs and 1,000 RBIs but rather than retire, Fielder and the Rangers agreed he would no longer play, and he was released from the 40-man roster to avoid costing the team a roster spot, but would continue to collect a paycheck until his contract expired. When it was agreed upon, Fielder still had four years left on his nine-year, $214 million contract he signed with the Tigers back in 2012.
This is the last year of that contract and he’s set to make his full termination pay, which comes to about $24 million, according to The Athletic’s Tim Rosenthal.
Even with some MLB stars making salaries now dwarfing what Fielder signed in 2012, potentially cutting current yearly earnings in half means none would hit that $24 million benchmark. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the league’s highest paid player, was slated to make $37.7 million, while the New York Yankees’s newest free agent acquisition, Gerrit Cole would’ve made $36 million and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper would’ve made $26 million. Cut each of those in half and they don’t sniff Fielder’s amount.
There’s a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo that still needs to be ironed out but as fans continue to wait and the days cross off the calendar, we all embrace some sort of normality, even if it means a former player could make more than anyone else. It just says a lot about the players’ union and their ability to continue to fight for all guaranteed contacts, unlike other major sports.