Why trading Prince Fielder was a very smart move for the Tigers

Prince Fielder was never really embraced during his two years as a Tiger.

Prince Fielder was never really embraced during his two years as a Tiger.

So long, Prince, we hardly knew ya.

Just two years into one of baseball’s most expensive contracts, the Detroit Tigers have jettisoned first baseman Prince Fielder, trading him to the Texas Rangers for infielder Ian Kinsler. It’s the sort of blockbuster deal that rocks baseball’s hot stove season. It will be debated in Detroit over the next few days and into next year as Tiger fans get their first look at Kinsler and Fielder goes on to play in the Lone Star State.

Those of you Tiger fans out there who are upset about this deal, I have two words for you.

Stop it.

This is a great deal for the Tigers. (that’s Tony the Tiger style GREEEEEAT!!!)

It’s a deal that goes well beyond the two players and the 2014 season.

Let me count the ways that this trade is a positive transaction for our Tabbies:

1. Miguel Cabrera can go back across the diamond
For two seasons we watched our best player – the best hitter in baseball – play the hot corner at third base. Was he terrible? Not really. Was he great? No. He was average or a little below average when you factor his limited range. When a ball was hit right at him or within a step or two of him, Miggy gobbled it up for the most part, and his arm is strong. But that terrible range (especially combined with the tractor-type range of Jhonny Peralta at shortstop) was a major liability. Now, with Fielder gone, Cabrera can go back over to first base, where he is much less of a defensive downer. Also, as Miggy gets older and more fragile, it’ll be much more comforting to know he can relax at first base. His injury last season and his subsequent playing through the pain at third, was a bit scary. He is the franchise, and he can realistically add more MVPs and batting titles to his record. He’ll be able to focus on hitting much more as a first baseman.

2. Nick Castellanos can move back to his natural position
Tiger blue chip prospect Nick Castellanos is a real-deal type young ballplayer. He has very big upside potential. Is it a lock that he’ll be an All-Star at the big league level? Of course not. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on to have a long career as a very good and possibly impact player with the bat in the majors. The kid can hit the baseball. With third base freed up, young Castellanos can move back to that position, which is his natural position.

3. Kinsler gives Dombrowski some options in the infield or elsewhere
At 31 years old, Ian Kinsler is no longer in his prime, but he’s still a very good baseball player. Like most middle infielders, Kinsler is losing some of his power as he gets into his 30s, and he was even started to be used at DH by the Rangers for a few games here and there over the last few seasons. Kinsler could make the transition to third base rather easily, if only for a season or two while Castellanos gets his feet wet in Detroit against big league pitching. if the Tigers want to bring Omar Infante back (he’s a free agent), they could use Omar at second and use Kinsler as a third baseman or even consider him for left field. Kinsler is a versatile player who could make that transition much better than a young player like Castellanos. I think, ultimately, Detroit will pass on Infante and play Kinsler at second, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Detroit will re-sign Jhonny Peralta so he can play third while Castellanos either plays left or gets more seasoning. Peralta, of course, can also play left field.

4. Detroit now has more money for signing Max Scherzer
Since the Tigers are paying $30 million of Fielder’s future contract and assuming all of Kinsler’s deal (worth less than $90 million), the team is saving more than $75 million by trading their All-Star first baseman. GM Dave Dombrowski has effectively relieved himself from one of baseball’s worst contracts. When Detroit signed Prince prior to the 2012 season, it was sort of an impulsive “let’s do it to do it” type deal orchestrated by team owner Mike Ilitch. But Fielder was never a good fit for spacious Comerica Park, which meant his power numbers were destined to flounder, which they did. In addition, he struggled for stretches in 2013 when he was distracted a bit by his divorce. Despite the fact that Prince played every game the two years he was here and he hustled as much as any player on the team, he was never embraced by Detroit faithful. His postseason struggles (one homer and three RBI in 24 postseason games for the Bengals) didn’t help him.

Now that Fielder’s contract (most of it) is Texas’s problem, the Tigers have more coin to sign Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, pursue free agent relievers, or both. It’s quite possible that Detroit could ink a couple of the top free agent relievers this off-season and then ink Scherzer to a deal during spring training. Of course there’s still the possibility that Scherzer could be traded, but with Fielder off first base, it gives Detroit more leverage in deals. With Fielder, Cabrera, and Victor Martinez, Dombrowski had three slow moving sluggers clogging up three spots. Now, they could deal Scherzer or Rick Porcello for an outfielder, third baseman, or parlay it to get closers and/or a lefty starter.

Please note: in Texas where the ballpark is much more friendly for Fielder’s upper cut power hacks, Prince WILL hit more home runs. And some Detroit fans will whine about that, like they did when Curtis Granderson was traded to the Yankees. But those fans don’t understand how ballparks impact performance. Prince might bounce back to a 35-40 homer level (maybe), but that won’t mean that Dombrowski made a dumb move. In Detroit, Kinsler won’t hit 25 homers, but he will play great defense, pop 15 homers, 35-45 doubles, and 15-25 steals.

5. The team has a real leadoff hitter
Let’s face it, Tiger Nation: Austin Jackson is not an effective leadoff hitter. When he gets on base he’s good, but he just hasn’t gotten on base consistently enough and his frequent strikeouts are innings killers. With Kinsler atop Brad Ausmus’s lineup, the Tigers can shift Jackson down to the 6th or 7th spot where he will not feel the pressure of being the offensive catalyst. Kinsler’s career on-base percentage is just five points higher than AJax’s, but he puts the ball in play far more often and he is a good basestealer too.

6. This is an upgrade at second base
Kinsler is a better defensive player and offensive player( by a long shot) than Omar Infante.

7. Clears the way for young players who are stuck in the Detroit farm system
Have you ever heard of Jordan Lennerton? I didn’t think so. He’s a first baseman who hit .278 with 17 homers and 43 extra-base hits for the Toledo Mud Hens last season. He drew more than 80 walks and has a very good idea of what the strike zone is. He’s a good defensive first baseman too and he can DH when needed. He’ll also be 28 years old in February. He’s been stuck in the Detroit farm system behind Miggy and then Prince for years. With “play everyday” Fielder gone, Lennerton is an option for a roster spot with the big league club. He’s a left-handed bat that would look good off the bench and as a fill-in when needed to spell Cabrera and VMart.

That’s seven reasons off the top of my head. Sure, those of you with a #28 Detroit jersey will have an awkward wardrobe choice to make next season, but the team will be better. It’s not that Prince Fielder was terrible, it’s just that his contract was outrageous for what Detroit was getting in return. It’s not like he was Reggie Jackson or David Ortiz in the playoffs, either.

Oh, and if you’re worried about protection for Miguel Cabrera in the lineup, we have Victor Martinez, who just keeps chugging along hitting .300 and making life uncomfortable for pitchers. Anyway, Cabrera is so good he is going to hit and he is going to be intentionally walked when he has to be regardless of who is hitting in the cleanup spot.

What do you think about the trade? Make a comment below.

34 replies on “Why trading Prince Fielder was a very smart move for the Tigers

  • Vickie Ellsworth

    I want Inge back, bring back Brandon #15!! Bring him home as 3B, again. He’ll be cheap, played utility role b4, that excellent glove, heck nothing would get thru!! He is & will always be my Tiger!! Other than that, I say keep Jhonny to play 3B/SS(when needed). He was gr8 2(w/ bat), he served his suspension, & it’s over w/. Let’s move on!!

  • Chris

    What do you mean “stop it”? No one in their right mind would question this move. Fielder is DONE…. his career is over..now he is just going to go team to team to team and each hoping he will have that last gasp of what he used to be while he is with them.

  • echotango

    Wow! Talk about a shakeup! I’ll miss Prince, but his performance in the post seasons (and last year) were not up to what we expected. This move really sets up options and could pave the way for a return of Peralta, who I think still has some good baseball left in him and is a proven hitter. I’d miss Omar if he’s dealt as well, but World Series win is the goal. I’m sure Dave D. is not done.

  • Ron

    I like the trade, and if it frees money to keep Scherzer, I am all for it. I think they ought to do everything they can to keep Scherzer. Now we should have a very strong middle infield for sure. Go Tigers.

  • Terry

    I agree with you that trading Prince was a good move. He is a good man, but this is a business. I also hope that Scherzer is safe from a trade and that we get a good closer. I have no confidence in Benoit and I think he looks more and more like “Papa Grande” the longer he is with the team.

  • Mike Krell

    I love the move. Prince was one baseball’s top RBI men the last two years here in Detroit. He played pretty decent defensive ball at first base. But his offensive numbers after the all star break last year were definitely on the downward trend. His performance in the post season was horrible. I will always remember his ‘dive’ towards third base against Boston as his swan song.

  • Julie Tell

    I think it’s a good trade. Fielder hasn’t performed as we had hoped since coming to Detroit. Moving Miggy back to 1st would be a great move, for him and the team. I want to do some research on Kinsler, but Dembroski usually makes some pretty good trades. Looking forward to 2014!!!!

  • Paul Vrahiotes

    The Tiger faithful will miss you Mr. Fielder unfortunately the writer is correct you were an impulse signing and a wrong fit for this team from the beginning. Money is not everything my friend. We wish you the best in Texas just remember when you play the Tigers no grudge hits just keep it real. See you in the play-offs! Tiger Faithful OUT!

  • Ed Nerychel

    Very good trade. It gets rid of a terrible contract, and opens up so many more options now, as how to jell the total pitching staff, and to rework the line up to inject a little
    more youth, and speed into the line up if they want.

  • George

    I think too many changes will effect the chemistry of the Tigers. Prince had personal problems to deal with but still helped protect Miggy by following him in lineup. Also hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs. A winning lineup is more than just gathering quality players. I think this might just upset the chemistry for next season. Anyone heard how Miggy feels about this?

  • Alec Rogers

    You win and the chemistry takes care of itself.

    Fielder’s contract would have been a millstone around the Tigers’ neck for years. Texas will be a much more congenial place for a home run hitter going into his declining years, which is why he waived his no trade clause.

    It’s a win for both teams and players.

  • Ken

    I don’t buy the argument that first base is less demanding than third base for Cabrera. When a left-handed batter is hitting, first base is the hot corner. A first baseman has to often hold a runner and then go back to play the position when the pitch is made. This activity can be demanding for that position. Cabrera plays adequately at third. In 2010 and 2011 he led the American League in errors as a first baseman. I don’t know if any replacement for him at third will yield better fielding results. He’s a good athlete too.

    I hope that Castellanos plays well but it’s still wait and see with him both defensively and offensively.

    Prior to the trade my choice would have been to see Infante signed. I understood why Fielder was signed and supported the notion of bringing in proven talent to win the World Series. It didn’t work. Fielder’s total production relative to the value of his contract just wasn’t there. And the amount of the contract would hinder future signings. Kinsler may be a good alternative at second and unloading Fielder’s mammoth contract was a great financial move.

  • John Bozzo

    Well argued. I like Prince, but I understand this move. I like Kinsler’s OPS and the suggestion of him batting leadoff. Even more, I like Miggy coming up second instead of third,which I hope the Tigers will do. I also like giving some of the Minor League guys a shot.

  • Charles

    First thing, if you compare infante and kindler numbers , they actually are close. Second ,who says Cabrera is moving. Third what has Castellanos ever done to prove he is a major leaguer.

  • Mike Coveyou

    Good arguments. I did like the Fielder signing when it was announced and still think it was a good move at the time. I expect Prince to bounce back in Texas (and we may come to rue trading him to a team we may meet in the post-season), but I’m excited to see Kinsler added to the middle of the Tiger infield.

    I really like the idea of resigning Peralta as a backup at SS and 3B (and perhaps an everyday 3B or LF, depending upon where Castellanos plays). But I suspect that Peralta wants to play e3veryday at SS and will also cost too much.

  • Rick

    Great move on many fronts! It provides many more options for the Tigers like adding more speed to the lineup, having a true leadoff hitter and a better chance to sign “Mad Max”! The return on investment for Prince’s contract never materialized and Dombrowski is sharp enough to realize it before he was beyond the point of no return.

  • Mary

    I think trading Fielder was a very good move. I hope he does well in Texas, he just did not do it for Detroit, and the money he was getting, he did not produce. I hope they bring Jhonny back, and I wished they would bring Brandon Inge back to Detroit.
    KEEP MAX!!!!!

  • nellie

    great move Fielder really was not worth his BIG MONEY. Kinsler will definitely help the whole team, batting order, defense, getting ball in play etc.

  • Leah

    I never thought he was worth the money and think he should have been gone along time ago. Like right after he came⚾️

  • Duke Cannon

    Taken as a whole, very well argued. Cannot disagree with the ultimate point that the trade is a good one. And I appreciate you pointing out that Fielder’s HR numbers will increase based on a shorter porch in right and 90 degree heat in April. The only point I think you’re off on is claiming that Kinsler’s offensive numbers are way stronger than Infante’s. I’m not sure the recent numbers bear that out.

  • Marvin Sonne

    Another outstanding move by DD. Will make our team better overall once the rest of the story gets told. Baseball today is not necessarily just about any one player’s stats; it’s the total complement of the TEAM–and our team just got better

  • Marvin Sonne

    Another outstanding move by DD. It will make our team better once the rest of the story is told. The mixture of the proper ingredients determine the outcome of the recipe. Chief chef Dombrowski has tweaked the formula so that the meal will be better. Mmmmmm good!!!

  • larry

    Now the Tigers will have the $$$ to keep Max . It was a bad contract and Prince will be much happier in Texas .I cant wait for Spring Training in Lakeland …Go Tigers

  • Gary S

    Did any one pay attention to Fielders numbers? To all those who are saying Fielder didn’t produce, what were you watching? 200 + RBI’s in 2 season is not all bad. Were you hoping for 200 RBI’s a season? Signing Prince was a good move, but it was for way to much money. I’m really surprised Texas took his contract even with the $30 million going to them. This was a good trade for both teams, and I look forward to Kinsler’s play here in Detroit. The guy flat out hustles. With the over-hang upper deck in right field at Texas, Fielder might hit 40+ HR’s. Trading Fielder was all about money. It might make it possible for Cabrera to end his career here, and to keep Scherzer here for 4-5 more seasons. Forget about Peralta, he’ll be playing for the Cardnials

  • Garret Fitzgerald

    Yes, good move. Freeing up the money is a good idea.
    But Prince is still a good player, and I’ll bet he has a monster year in Texas.

  • John B

    We may have lost some power, but the speed and defense just got a whole lot better. Gotta get away from this station to station offense and start making the game exciting again.

  • John Fain

    Moving Fielder is a good idea. Counting on Kinsler is not. They did Texas a favor by taking him. Before you get excited about him, look at his home/road splits. Almost all of his offense is in the Texas bandbox. The road version of Kinsler is what we are getting and it is very little.

  • Gdub

    Get your mop!!! Finally cleaning a little house at the perfect time. I believe it truly was the strength of that roster that brought anything out in feilder. He was an eye soar at first dont get me wrong when i heard the name i was crazy over the idea of him hitting behind “the greatest” but the brass tax was he made us look like a bunch of old beer league sluggers who knees jus aint there. We never stole any bases and there where just to many bengals left on the base path. Struggling wondering if detroit while finally get over this miny curse i think this is it i totally agree with you this was the trade to get back to the (ship)!!

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