MILWAUKEE (AP) — Scott Boras is already making his case for Prince Fielder over Albert Pujols.
As baseball's general managers arrived in Milwaukee for meetings that begin Tuesday, Boras emphasized that Fielder is four years younger than Pujols.
"I don't think Pujols and Fielder are in any way related in the market place," Boras said Monday. "I think their markets are separate and distinct."
The slugging first basemen are the top power hitters available in free agency. Fielder helped the Milwaukee Brewers win the NL Central title this season and a trip to the NL championship series, where they were beaten by Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The left-handed hitting Fielder is 27, and the right-handed batting Pujols is 31. Fielder batted .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs this year. Pujols also hit .299 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs, helping the Cardinals win their second World Series crown in six seasons.
"I think they are different for a lot of reasons, the primary one being age," Boras said. "Prince has done some things between ages 22 and 26 that he performed essentially the same production levels that Pujols did in his prime from 27 and 31," Boras said. "Prince is somebody both a current club and a future club could invest in."
At the meetings, owners are expected to vote Thursday to approve the sale of the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane. Owners also are expected to hear a report on the ongoing labor negotiations.
Boras said he will speak with both Brewers GM Doug Melvin and new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. The meeting this week, which will include owners starting Wednesday, is often used to set up deals that will be consummated during the winter meetings next month.
"When guys are free agents, they take the time to test the market. I basically back off and let them test the market and try to get a feel for it," said Melvin, who signed star Ryan Braun in April to a deal adding $105 million over five seasons. "I don't think anything will come out of here and the next step is the winter meetings. If I don't talk to Scott here, I'll talk to him prior to the winter meetings. At some point we have to move on and fill the holes in our team."
Before heading to Milwaukee, management lawyers met with the players' association in New York and moved closer to a new labor contract to replace the one that expires Dec. 11. The deal would institute restraints on spending in the amateur draft and lessen draft-pick compensation for some major league free agents.
"I don't think it will change the market either way," said agent Paul Kinzer, who represents reliever Matt Capps, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Rafael Furcal. "I think baseball is going to be stable as usual."
Kinzer agreed with earlier statements from Epstein that Ramirez's career with the Cubs is over and he'll be looking for perhaps a four-year deal with a contender. The Cubs exercised a $16 million mutual option and Ramirez declined it.
"That ship has sailed," Kinzer said. "No problems there, tremendous respect. Just at the point where that's an end of an era."
Since the end of the season, Epstein has moved to the Cubs from Boston and been replaced at Fenway Park by assistant Ben Cherington.
Jed Hoyer left the Padres to become Epstein's GM in Chicago and was replaced in San Diego by former Arizona GM Josh Byrnes. Dan Duquette replaced Andy McPhail running Baltimore's baseball operations, and Terry Ryan reclaimed his job as Minnesota GM after Bill Smith, his successor, was fired.
Cherington said Monday night the Red Sox and Cubs still had not settled on compensation for Epstein.
"We still have to figure it out," he said, adding that it might be best if the commissioner's office settles the issue.
Cherington also said that Boston managerial candidate Dale Sveum, the Brewers' hitting coach, is scheduled for a second interview Wednesday in Milwaukee with team owner John Henry.
Epstein met with Carlos Zambrano and his agent, Barry Praver, on Monday in Chicago before coming to Milwaukee and said he would give the temperamental right-hander a chance to earn his way back on the team.
Zambrano cleaned out his locker and talked about retiring after giving up five homers and being ejected during a loss to Atlanta on Aug. 12. His ejection followed two inside pitches to Chipper Jones. Zambrano was suspended 30 days and once that stint ended did not pitch the rest of the season.
"We told him we would give him the right to earn his way back to being a Cub and nothing would be given to him. He could earn his way back through very hard work this winter, through rebuilding relationships man to man with all of his teammates and through some other steps we discussed," Epstein said, declining to reveal specifics.
"We're not welcoming him back unconditionally at all. We're going to give him the right to earn his way back."
Epstein said the Cubs' selection process for a new manager had moved into the evaluation and decision phase. The team interviewed Red Sox bench coach Demarlo Hale over the phone recently after face-to-face interviews with Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum, Mike Maddux and Sandy Alomar Jr.
Epstein also said he continues to talk with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"Just getting it right. I think this is an important week. We would like to think we can move into the decision phase," he said.
He also said he hoped progress could be made on the compensation issue between the Red Sox and Cubs for his services.
"We'll see how it goes," he said.