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Tigers win big in shedding Prince Fielder’s contract

Nov 20, 2013, 9:01 PM EDT

Prince Fielder AP

Give lots of credit to Dave Dombrowski; the potential nightmare back half of Prince Fielder‘s nine-year, $214 million contract is no more.

Instead, Fielder and the $168 million he’s still owed is gone after two mildly disappointing seasons in Detroit, with Ian Kinsler‘s more palatable deal coming back. The Tigers sent along $30 million in order to facilitate the deal, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan.

Kinsler, who is owed $62 million for four years or $67 million for five if his option is picked up, supplants free agent Omar Infante as the Tigers’ second baseman. He won’t replace Fielder’s bat in the cleanup spot, but he can be just as valuable of a player, depending on how much of Fielder’s decline these last two years is for real.

Most importantly, the move shores up Detroit’s defense by getting Miguel Cabrera back to first base where he belongs. Now the Tigers can also return top prospect Nick Castellanos to his original position of third base. He was moved to left field last year because of Cabrera’s presence a the hot corner.

As of this moment, it looks like the trade frees up $8 million for the Tigers to spend this winter, though that depends on the schedule of the cash payments to Texas. If the Tigers aren’t confident in Castellanos, they could go sign Juan Uribe to play third base. They can also use some of the savings on their bullpen. For the long haul, that Fielder cash may be earmarked for a new Max Scherzer deal. Scherzer, the Al Cy Young Award winner, is a free agent after next season.

The Rangers get better on the field with the one-for-one deal, but it’s at a cost of inheriting one of the game’s worst contract. Most likely, Fielder will put up a better line next year than the .279/.362/.457 he hit while going through a divorce in a career-worst 2013 season. He’s just turning 30 in May, and while his body type suggests an early decline is quite possible, he probably has at least one or two more .900-OPS seasons in him. Also, the Rangers now have their spot freed up for young Jurickson Profar, who will step in at second base and could be an All-Star come 2015 or 2016.

Still, the Rangers didn’t need to go this route. They could have signed Mike Napoli for something like $45 million over three years. They could have shifted Kinsler to the outfield or traded him for a youngster or two, perhaps without eating any portion of his salary. Going after Fielder instead looks like an ownership move more along the lines of what we’ve come to expect from the Angels (Vernon Wells, Albert Pujols). It should work out fine for a couple of years, but what comes afterwards could get ugly.

  1. sincitybonobo - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    Miggy needed to get back to first, also. I’m surprised the Sox didn’t test him more with bunts during the ALCS.

    • nbjays - Nov 21, 2013 at 8:00 AM

      Not to mention that Miggy gets to boost his 2014 MVP case because he will again have changed positions for the good of the team. Or something.

  2. jrobitaille23 - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    This is the worst article. Power and RBI are at a premium in today’s game. Prince didn’t have amazing numbers but that ballpark is awful. He is moving to a much better situation. He’s only 30, you are all acting as if this is a 35 year old with 1 or 2 good years left. Texas can now keep Profar at his natural position and where he belongs (2B), it’s a lateral move in the short term but should be a plus move as time goes by as Kinsler is just so overrated. A left handed power bat in Texas? Yes please. Detroit wins as well being able to move Miggy back to 1B, Kinsler being upgrade at 2B and Cast back to 3B. Seriously great move by all parties. Is Pouliot a Texans hater or what?

    • dan1111 - Nov 21, 2013 at 5:43 AM

      I think Pouliot’s analysis is spot on. Using WAR, which accounts for defense, Kinsler has been more valuable than Fielder throughout his career.

      Will Fielder be a great hitter in Texas? Probably, but the Rangers are paying a lot more to get less.

      • jrobitaille23 - Nov 21, 2013 at 6:37 AM

        KInsler has been more valuable because he has been hitting in a hitters park in a loaded lineup. Wait till his already declining numbers are amplified in Detroit. You are looking at maybe a .260 hitter with 10 HR and 70 RBI. Meanwhile, TX needed to replace Cruz right? And a left handed bat? In that ballpark Fielder could easily hit 35 HR and drive in 120 RBI. Despite my feeling about Kinsler, I still feel it’s a win for DET as well. Actually a very well thought out trade for both teams. It’s rare to see it happen like this, can’t remember the last time actually..

    • polegojim - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      J – those indicators are only valuable if they come at the right time… like say… maybe during the ALCS???

      Fielder pulled another disappearing act… and as displayed, was a ‘fielding’ liability. They could have brought up a rookie for that and at min pay!!!

      And for 214 mil??? Not a chance. We were all wondering who would even want to pick him up… thank you Texas.

      • jrobitaille23 - Nov 21, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        stop. It’s 168 million. His one ‘bad’ year he hit 25 HR with 106 RBI in a poor hitters park. Were you complaining when he hit .313 with 30 HR and 108 RBI last year? You are acting as if Detroit has even been legitimate before Prince got there. He plays every day, he puts up numbers, he doesn’t turn 30 until AFTER next season starts. The guy is a legit power hitting 1B. They aren’t cheap and you cannot find a rookie to just step in and produce. I mean, really 😦

      • polegojim - Nov 21, 2013 at 4:55 PM

        1) It’s 168 mil REMAINING…
        2) If your value statements were accurate… the Tigers would not have TRADED HIM! Think on that one – the TIGERS know where the best value rested… and it was as 2B.

  3. sawxalicious - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    I think this trade works out OK for both teams. However, Detroit only has 2 guys in the regular line-up to bat from the left side-Alex Avila 11 HR, .693 OPS, and Victor Martinez 14 HR, .785 OPS (switch-hitter). That is a concern, but they’ve freed up money to maybe get another LH bat. Here are Fielder’s and Kinsler’s new ballpark splits (CAUTION: Small Sample Size)
    Fielder Career @ Arlington:
    13 games: .265/.373/.516 for .965 OPS 4 HR, 15 RBIs
    Kinsler Career @Comerica:
    36 games: ..200/.298/.329 for .627 OPS 3 HR, 18 RBIs

    Overall, I think Texas wins in the short term with Fielder’s bat, but Detroit wins long-term with added payroll flexibility.

    One need only look at the Boston Red Sox to see what a team can do with more payroll flexibility. This is starting to be an interesting off-season. I’d like more baseball news like this rather than all the A-ROD garbage.

    • xjokerz - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:51 AM

      its a horrible trade for the Tigers

      virtually what you had was..get rid of Fielder..replace Infante with a down trending 2b in damn Kinsler…when infante hit .318 last wtf are we gaining here?

      we gave up fielder who backed up 3 straight MVPs

      2 years ago- Braun
      last years ago- Miggy
      This year- Miggy

      i cant believe dombrowski made this piss move knowing Vmart and Hunter are coming off the books at the end of next year.

      couldnt be more pissed with this.

      • sawxalicious - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:00 AM

        I agree, IF the Tigers don’t make any other changes…If the Tigers went after Shin Soo Choo, the lineup would be better than last year’s, IMHO. That’s where the payroll flexibility comes in. I don’t think Dombrowski is done dealing just yet.

      • timmmah10 - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        Classic lunatic fringe fan base in Detroit. Shortsided… always worried about the home run.

        In the playoffs, having players that can run is better than trying to run a station to station softball team. You can have one or two of those guys, but you can’t have the whole heart of your lineup running 6 second 40 yard dashes… at it showed this year more than ever.

        Think about the trade this way before you get your panties in a bunch: This trade keeps Max Scherzer in town. He’s pretty good too. Would you rather have Fielder for the next 5 years or Scherzer? If you said Fielder, then you must not like winning in the playoffs.

        This improves team speed, defense, and keeps pitching in town (you could argue increasing defense helps pitching, but I’m already winning this argument.)
        This should lead to fewer double plays, more range in the infield, less base running errors, more opportunities to score from second on singles…

        The only loss here is Fielders 20 additional HRs that he would hit…. but in reality, you should compare the numbers of whoever replaces Cabby at 3b with Fielder’s departure.

      • ctony1216 - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:55 AM

        People underrate the importance of Fielder batting behind Cabrera. It will be interesting to see which Tiger gets that job next year, and how it might affect the kinds of pitches Cabrera sees.

        Clearly, the Tigers must of have felt that they have enough offense without Fielder to win that division.

      • pwshrugged - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Who hits behind Cabrera next year (V-Mart) and how that impacts Cabrera is certainly a concern, but I think this move is all about financial flexibility. It’s about re-signing Scherzer and Cabrera and being able to pursue other free agent depth as necessary. Fielder’s contract was an albatross.

        Dombrowski’s not done, either, I agree with sawxalicious.

  4. xjokerz - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    i guess, i just figured the tigers were in win now mode.

    simply put, they got worse today and theres no beating around the bush with that fact.

    Fielder carried the tigers to the playoffs in September when Miggy wasnt doing crap.

    and quite honestly i dont care about fielders comments after they lost to the redsox, what do fans expect from these guys? ” im going to go home, go into a major depression, cry and hopefully come back next year and do something ” ….

    HELL NO i want a player who says ” im done with it, im going to clear my head with my family work hard in the offseason and come back better next year and get it done ”

    people put athletes up on some pedestal as if they were some sort of angels. its ridiculous

    • sawxalicious - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      They did get worse today, but there’s a few more months of the off-season left…

      • xjokerz - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:23 AM

        is there a free agent better than fielder out there?

        as i said, Kinsler and Infante are basically the same player…….

      • sawxalicious - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:19 AM

        Ian Kinsler:
        2013 – .277/.344/.413 for .757 OPS, 13 HRs, 72 RBIs, 15 SBs, 4.9 B/R WAR
        Career (8 Seasons 4,791 PA) – .273/.349/.454 for .804 OPS, 156 HRs, 539 RBIs, 172 SBs, 34.7 B/R WAR

        Omar Infante:
        2013 – .318/.345/.450 for .795 OPS, 10 HRs, 51 RBIs, 5 SBs , 2.4 B/R WAR
        Career (12 Seasons 4,519 PA) – .279/.319/.402 for .721 OPS, 74 HRs, 421 RBIs, 69 SBs, 17.4 B/R WAR

        Similar, but overall, I’d rather have Kinsler, He is only about six months older than Infante (Both are 31). Plus Infante’s next contract will probably cost almost as much as Kinsler.

        Kinsler’s future salaries:
        2014: 16 Mill
        2015: 16 Mill
        2016: 14 Mill
        2017: 11 Mill
        2018: 12 Mill or $5 Mill buyout

        I know $30 mill also went to Texas along with Fielder, but Fielder’s contract had the possibility/probability of becoming an albatross.

    • polegojim - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      joker… you must be joking… or Fielders brother or something like that.

      After 2 seasons… he failed to do what you mentioned, nor did he contribute to the post season AGAIN.

      Fielder PROVED to be excess baggage on the field and most certainly at the plate.

  5. xxmoriarityxx - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    I don’t consider myself to be a baseball guru by any means but it does seem to me that this trade was about way more than just moving Fielder or getting a decent 2b in Kinsler.

    It seems, to me anyway, that this trade was about freeing up cash. For what? To avoid having to trade Max and being able to re-sign him? Perhaps.

    To have the cash available for a big free agent signing to fill a need? Perhaps.

    Both? Hopefully.

    To me, if I were a betting man, I would bet on both, or at the very least to be able to sign a needed free agent puzzle piece and I think I have an idea who that is in Jacoby Ellsbury. I mean he fills many needs of the Tigers. He can move to left field, allowing Castellanos to move to his natural position at third, which allows Miggy to move back to first. He also brings some much needed speed along with a decent batting average and OBP and still some pop in his bat, finally giving the Tigers and real lead off hitter which could help Jackson if he were to move down in the order.

    The Tigers would move from a slow, home run dependent team, to a team that still has pop while also having the ability to create run with speed on the team in the form of Ellsbury, Kinsler, Iglesias, and Jackson.

    Finally, reports over the last month have ranged from the Tigers being 1 of 6 teams interested in Ellsbury to one saying that the Tigers were odds on favorite for him to go to AND Boras, to whom Double D has a good working relationship.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen relatively quickly now from this point as the Tigers seem to move quick in the off season. Get what you want, let things relax and get ready for Spring Training.

    • xjokerz - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:25 AM

      at this point im just hoping the Tigers pick up Beltran as the DH, move Vmart to 1B leave miggy at 3B and build up the bullpen by picking up Joe Nathan or Brian Wilson.

      idk if they can afford Glassbury.
      err Ellsbury…

    • pwshrugged - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      I feel like the Tigers are starting to realize that they might not be able to win with power; Comerica’s just too unfriendly of a park in that regard. Fielder was a HR-or-single guy, which simply doesn’t play there, not for what they were paying him. Cabrera, at least, can turn his deep hits into doubles, which I think is the absolute most important quality in a hitter for Detroit at that park; the home runs are great, sure, but when you work in that deep a park, you need to manage the basepaths. On that note, hopefully the Tigers start employ more of a speed game with A-Jax, Kinsler, and Iglesias. Their inability to “manufacture” runs was completely devastating in important games.

      The biggest bet the Tigers are making on this is that Castellanos makes the team out of Spring Training to fill the hole at 3B. Seems like the shopping list is down to infield bench depth, left field, and bullpen. And they have more money for that.

      • spursareold - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        Uh, Shortstop, too. I doubt that Peralta is coming back.

  6. pwshrugged - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Love it. As a Tigers fan, I was lamenting the worst last month after the ALCS loss (see my blog if you care), but this has totally refreshed my feelings. Kinsler should play well in Comerica (although obviously he’ll never hit 20+ HR there) and give the Tigers some help at the top of the lineup. Fielder was a bust at Comerica; he couldn’t turn doubles like Cabrera does when he doesn’t get out of the park, so he had a serious suppression in his numbers. I completely expect Fielder to rebound in Texas, but it’s like Matt says – the Tigers get out of what would have been a terrible back end of that contract.

    No ill will to Prince, though. Just a bad fit, and after his comments after the ALCS, there was just no way the fans were going to come back to him. I tip my hat to Dave Dombrowski. Well played.

  7. ray0414 - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    this thread might be dead by the time ive posted this, but as a tiger fan, prince was so dissappointing, you cant hit homeruns if you cant get the ball outta the infield. dude was popping up and grounding out ALL SEASON, it was so hard to watch. strike outs were also way up. and to make things worse he has a horrible attitude. his comments were pretty rediculous and pissed off the fans and rumor that the tigers brass were not thrilled either. after being eliminated this year a reporter asked him how tough it was go out like that and having a chance in the series and his answer “its not tough at all, its over bro”. constantly making comments about how at the end of the day he goes home to his kids and this and that, and its like you can at least act like you care that your losing and not earning your money. everyone has family everyone has kids, but not everyone is paid 25million dollars for their job. basically, he got PAID and doesnt care. had such high hopes for him when they signed him, fell flat big time.

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