This hurts.

Born and raised in Madison, WI, I’ve been a Milwaukee Brewers fan my entire life. I remember my dad taking me to games at old County Stadium to see Robin Yount and Paul Molitor play, and it was so easy and “available” to stand outside after the game to fetch autographs from your favorite players or even to just see the team.

This was long before $100 million contracts. At the time, it didn’t matter whether you played in a small-market, blue-collar town like Milwaukee or a large metro area like New York City, where today players have added incentive to play with millions more available in endorsement deals.  

It was about making a living by doing something you enjoy, but more importantly, it was about playing baseball.

I’m not saying it isn’t about baseball for players these days, I’m just coming to terms with the fact that capitalism reached America’s Pastime over the last 20 years.

Today, being a fan of a team in a small-market means you need to realize that most players will come and go. It doesn’t mean the team can’t win, it just means the GM needs to be really good at making draft picks and, more importantly, good at making trades.

I give credit to Brewers owner Mark Attanasio for everything he has done to improve the franchise, bringing competitive baseball back to Milwaukee. The smallest market in the league has a payroll that will exceed $90 million in 2011, which is 17th most in all of baseball. Attanasio wants to win just as much as the fans, if not more.

That is why the best move for the future of Milwaukee baseball is to trade beloved first baseman Prince Fielder.

Everyone north of the equator knows he won’t be donning a Brewers uniform in 2012, so why not trade him now?

Regardless of their 0-4 start, the Brewers are a good team. They stand to win plenty of games, with or without Prince. They’ve been hit by the injury bug early and often to begin the season, and their start reflects that.

Prized acquisition Zack Greinke will return in a few weeks, which will give them a deep rotation that should keep them in most ballgames.

If the San Francisco Giants proved anything by winning the World Series last season, it’s that it takes pitching to win, not hitting.

If the Brewers keep Prince through this season, they would get high draft pick compensation when he signs elsewhere as a Type-A free agent. But very few draft picks, if any, can step in right away and do what the Brewers will need them to do.

Why not trade him away now, with the possibility of getting enough in return to be able to contend not only this year, but in the years to come? Not only that, but if he isn’t traded, there is a very good chance he heads down Interstate 94 and signs with the rival Chicago Cubs in the offseason. That alone is reason enough to send him packing to the team of their choosing.

Which team is that? The Los Angeles Angels.

Angels owner Arte Moreno struck out this offseason in his attempts to bring in the big bat he desires. Eventually, in a move that will be questioned for years, the Angels were able to acquire Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays.

The addition of Prince would give the Angels the “Face of the Franchise” Moreno so desperately desires long into the future, as well as making them instant contenders.

Not only are the Angels the lone American League team that can afford Fielder’s new contract who actually needs a 1B/DH type, they just happen to have the right pieces to make this trade work.

The Angels have a big power bat waiting for a chance to man first base in Mark Trumbo, the organizations fourth ranked prospect who led the minor leagues with 36 home runs last season.

They also have a crop of pitching prospects, led by right-hander Taylor Chatwood. Chatwood, the Angels reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year, is known for his fantastic fastball-slider combination and should be ready for the majors by 2012, if not before.  

The sooner the Brewers are willing to make the move, the more talent they will get in return. Dealing him to a team that has a good chance at re-signing him will only increase that potential.

I’m all for a team “going all in” as the Brewers have this season, but there is a lot more to their team than Prince Fielder. If you can trade him now, get Major League ready talent in return, and improve your chances of winning now and in the future, then I’d say it’s about time to pull the trigger.  

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