Last night, I decided to go for a run.  I’m running in a 5k on Thanksgiving, and unlike every major league player on the cusp of spring training, I am not in the best shape of my life.  I’m probably in the worst shape of my life.  Any joke you could make about Prince Fielder being overweight and not exactly athletic-looking, could be made about me and what I call “running.”  So it’s interesting that as I staggered back into my driveway, the Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler trade was just going down.  I talked to my parents on the phone after my return home, and I thought my dad was messing with me when he told me about the trade.  Then I thought that maybe I was hallucinating because not enough oxygen had reached my brain due to my pathetic attempt to run three miles.  Detroit actually found someone to take Fielder’s contract, without having to pay like 60% of said contract?  This could end up being a huge win for them.

Back in January 2012, when Fielder was originally signed to his 9 year, $214 million deal, I said that it was the kind of signing that would look fantastic for the first couple of years, and kill them on the back end of the deal.  So now they had him for the first couple of years, and he’ll be someone else’s problem for the back end of the deal.  Fielder is still owed $168 million over the next seven years, or $24 million annually.  As Dave Cameron pointed out in an article at Fangraphs, the Tigers will shed $76 million of what they would have paid, when you factor in Kinsler’s salary over the next four years, and the fact that Detroit sent $30 million to Texas in the deal.

One of the biggest benefits to shedding such a large contract is the fact that it gives the Tigers much more payroll flexibility in the long run.  Max Scherzer is a free agent after the 2014 season, and Miguel Cabrera will be a free agent after the 2015 season.  There were rumors that the Tigers would try to trade Scherzer since they wouldn’t be able to afford to sign him, and hope to keep Cabrera just a year later.  Now it’s feasible that they could keep both, or they could choose to make a splash on the free agent market.  With Kinsler at second, they could focus on an outfielder like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, to roam the outfield with Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.  They’re no longer forced to keep Cabrera at third; a move back to first may be easier on his body in the long run.  Fielder had an off year offensively in 2013 (for him), and had an extremely poor showing in the playoffs, drawing ire from a number of Detroit fans.  I found myself wondering if there would be awkwardness next season between Fielder and the home crowd at Comerica Park…now it’s a moot point.

As Cameron explained in the Fangraphs piece, the Tigers can either pursue a free agent to cover third base, or just rely upon top prospect Nick Castellanos to man the position.  I think the most telling point he makes is when he says that the Tigers “turned a $168 million +3 WAR player into $92 million +3 WAR player.”  Now they have some flexibility because they’re no longer forced to keep Fielder at first (since Victor Martinez is already pretty much the full-time DH).  Plus the subtraction of Fielder automatically means that defense at first will likely improve – addition by subtraction.  There are concerns that Fielder’s absence from the lineup may negatively impact Cabrera, removing the big bat protecting him.  Although Victor Martinez will obviously still provide some protection, and a gifted hitter like Cabrera will probably be fine.

From the perspective of an Indians fan, I don’t really care for this deal.  The Tigers greatly improved their flexibility and will no longer have the weight of Fielder’s contract around their neck as we approach the end of the decade.  I think there will be one or more companion moves to go with this trade – either another deal, or a splash in the free agent market.  I think this could end up helping Texas some too – they now don’t have to worry about getting rid of either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar.  One can move to second, and Fielder can take over first base for Mitch Moreland.  Since they’re not a division rival, I’m a bit less concerned with them; although since they were competition for the Wild Card this season, I’m obviously keeping an eye on them as well.

Also in the AL Central today:

- The Royals announced that they signed pitcher Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal.  While the per-year sum isn’t unreasonable, I think that four years is a bit excessive.  The way the Royals hyped a “big announcement for 4 p.m.” all afternoon, I thought it was going to be a much more significant move than a Vargas signing.  He’s a decent pitcher, but he’ll basically be taking the rotation spot of Ervin Santana, since he’s unlikely to return to Kansas City.  I don’t think he’ll end up duplicating Santana’s 2013 numbers, but at least he fills a hole.

10 Comments

  • Mike says:

    I as a Tribe fan don’t like this trade. It was really a huge win for the Tigers in my opinion. I was looking forward to the back end of that deal weighing them down. On another note, the market for Asdrubal may have ticked upward as the Rangers won’t appear to be trading either of their young shortstops now.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    Long term this definitely helps the Tigers, but it could hurt short-term. Kinsler’s not cheap. He’s earning $16M the next two years, which only saves the Tigers $8M. Over the next two years, Fielder is probably worth the extra money.

    It’s obviously a great trade for the Tigers in the long run, but the Indians don’t work in 6-year windows so we really can’t think about that. They have approximately a 2-year window of opportunity right now, and beyond that the future is completely up in the air.

    So as far as I’m concerned, this trade weakens the Tigers right now and that’s really all that matters based on the Indians current situation. We’ll deal with 2017 when it comes.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      That’s a good point…Kinsler isn’t exactly a bargain either. Before I heard they were getting Kinsler in the deal, all I could think of “is this so they can sign Cano?” Then I heard about Kinsler and breathed a little easier.

  • medfest says:

    Fielder had a bad year for him,a bad sign perhaps, and Kinsler is a player in decline going to a pitchers park.

    From a competitive standpoint I think the trade weakens the Tigers line up quite a bit and helps the Rangers enormously since middle of the order thumpers are hard to come by.

    The trade does free up 76 million dollars to try and retain Scherzer.With Boras as his agent that is far from a sure thing and nowhere near enough money for the 5 to 7 year deal he will want.So the “flexibility ” the trade gives the Tigers may just be illusion.

    Fielder will benefit from a hitters park but the Rangers are on the the hook for seven more years of 20 million dollar salaries for the biggest vegan in the world.If he’s worth even half that over the course of the contract I’ll start eating tofu regularly.

    The Vargas signing was a pretty dumb move,4 years at 8 million per for a soft tossing,below average lefty?They could have kept Chen for half that on a year by year basis.Vargas is also coming off shoulder surgery to remove blood clots in his throwing arm so a four year deal is even riskier.Trading Myers last year,keeping Yost as manager and now this move?The Royals are keeping me happy as a Tribe fan.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      I feel the exact same way about the Royals (and I forgot about Vargas’s surgery). I kept wondering why they wouldn’t flip Santana to someone for prospects last season. In fairness, they got closer than I would have thought, but I think Dayton Moore wanted to finish with as many wins as possible so the Shields for Myers thing didn’t look quite as bad. Then they thank their loyal fans by coming up with absolutely insane prices for potential postseason tickets. http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/20/4495785/royals-price-markups-for-postseason.html

      • medfest says:

        Wow,those ticket prices were insane!I shuddered when I saw the price for World Series tickets this year, but the Division and Championship Series prices weren’t that bad at all.

        • Stephanie Liscio says:

          Yeah, it seems like everyone jacks their World Series tickets, but those early round prices for the Royals were insane. If you want to bleed the occasional or bandwagon fan, that’s fine…but those were their prices for their season ticket holders.

          Someone (I want to say Jon Heyman from CBS) said that KC was all in for Beltran. Although one of the KC beat writers said that when they released George Kottaras, it implied that they were completely out of money after the Vargas deal. Indians and Tigers supposedly inquired about Beltran as well, but the Indians must figure he’ll never come here if they signed Murphy. Cano also had a rumored meeting with the Tigers in the last day or two, but I don’t know how they’d fit that. It could just be Cano and his agent trying to drive up his price so the Yankees will give him more.

          • medfest says:

            The World Series prices are set by MLB,technically, they are the landlords of the two ballparks for the Series.

  • James Edgar says:

    KC has no shot to get Beltran back. He’s made his money and now he wants a ring. He’s only going to sign with a team that will win one by 2016. KC is much better, but they don’t have the depth on their roster to win 95-98 games, which is what they need for home-field advantage, which they would have to have to get past the Red Sox (and probably the Yankees and Tigers). I think he’s going to end up with the Yankees.

    As for the Fielder trade, I think the Tigers won that one, and not just for the money. Kinsler won’t match Fielder’s home runs in that canyon, but I bet he leads the league in triples next year. And with Cabrera and Kinsler on base all the time, Victor might drive in 150 runs. But I think the Tigers will be a little weaker next year, because of the manager change. I’m not saying Brad Ausmus is an idiot, but I think Leyland had the best ability of just about any manager I have ever seen at running the ship day-to-day over a long season. Going from that mastery to a man on his first major league managing job is going to cost the Tigers a few games.

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