The Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder.
Is there any other way to start into discussing this? The Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a 9-year (with no opt out), $214 million contract, seemingly in response to losing DH Victor Martinez (who's signed through 2014) for the season to a knee injury. Good gravy.
The best offense in the AL Central last year lost Victor Martinez--a commendable, but not elite DH--and now has chosen to console themselves with probably the 5th best hitter in baseball. That, along with not giving 660 plate appearances to the final fleeting vapors of Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge, should provide enough improvement to cover up possible regression from Avila, Peralta, Young and others quite nicely. Probably with runs to spare.
In fact, reasonable people might come out and say that this snuffs out illusions of a shot-in-the-dark chance of White Sox competing with a sobering amount of brutality. Maybe even for multiple years.
Phil Rogers would go farther. Phil thinks that if Dave Dombrowski is just going to have his rich uncle Mike Ilitch buy his science fair project for him, that Kenny might as well throw his model volcano in the trash, cut out the back of the gymnasium and hit the damn arcade already.
"You wonder if there's any point in holding onto veteran players who might have value elsewhere, such as Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton and even shortstop Alexei Ramirez, as the Sox head into a challenging season under rookie manager Robin Ventura.
With Eduardo Escobar already on the fringes of the big-league roster and Tyler Saladino on the horizon, why wouldn't Ken Williams consider sending Ramirez and Floyd to Boston in a package for as much 25-and-under talent as possible?"
In the immediate moments after the deal, I was trying to scope out the proper amount of panic I should have, and seeing as Saladino hasn't conquered Double-A yet, and Escobar is a no-hit glove guy who's been recklessly overpromoted, I'm sensing that this has safely been identified as the overreaction zone.
Perhaps I've been programmed to dismiss calls for scorched-earth rebuilds just from knowing they're never coming. While there's certainly no faulting a trade of Floyd for the right price, pulling an about- face from previous organizational plans in response to one player, especially one with the misgivings Fielder might present after a few years, seems pretty knee-jerk.
And look! The Tigers are even willing to give some of their recently purchased production back in the field. In Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers have acquired two poor fielding 1st basemen who don't want to DH. Naturally, they
told them suck it the hell up and do what’s best for the team will accommodate their wishes and move Cabrera back to 3rd base, a position they moved him off of with great haste in 2007.
Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, here’s a translated version of what Cabrera told Venezuelan newspaper Lider en Deportes:
“I will come back to the third base, which is my natural position. The arrival of Fielder will benefit us.”
Cabrera wasn't a good 3rd basemen when he was 24, and is now returning five years later in a beefier state, which could have Mark Reynolds-like results. Perhaps the Adam Dunn saga has spooked every team into bowing to their star slugger's wishes to stay in the field for the next few years? Ha! Dunn's finally paying dividends! High-fives!
If anyone could afford to give back some runs with his glove, it's a guy who posted a 177 wRC+ last season, but it's still not the best allocation of resources, (or the best thing for Doug Fister and Rick Porcello's future contracts)...unless of course, the Tigers are still going to lock up a one-year DH substitute. That would just be obnoxious.
But there are two sides of this deal. There's the immediate sense of doom and fright, with the blood, and the scurrying for shelter; and then there's the money. The money is insane.
Prince Fielder got 9 years, $214 million; the fourth largest contract of all-time. I hesitate to suddenly declare the waiting game Boras played all off-season as a masterstroke now, because it would seem to give him credit for anticipating a freak injury entering a contender into the market, but he clearly attacked the opening it brought with grand efficacy.
Boras got the Tigers to sign a huge, hulking 1st basemen who doesn't figure to age well, through his age-36 year. The Tigers signed another 1B/DH, when they already have two 1B/DH's under contract through 2014. This rings every bell for spending-disaster we've rigged up! All of the bells!
So there's some comfort to be had in the Tigers seeming to have scooped entirely too much food onto their plate. Cabrera at 3rd base doesn't seem like a tenable option, especially with Brandon Inge sitting around earning $5.5 million for 2012, it's really hard to see the arrangement sticking for the year. And by the time Victor Martinez returns from an ACL injury in 2013 that's almost assuredly ended his catching career, the Tigers will have three expensive hitters who can only really be hid at 1st base. They are very likely to have Prince Fielder on the books for big money past his point of effectiveness. That would be a problem
Yet with 83 year-old Tigers owner Mike Ilitch clearly gunning for a World Series--despite reportedly operating at a loss--with a sort of mortal desperation, the comfort is the same cold kind as one might have taken while watching the Soviets* stockpile nuclear missiles in the 80's. "Oh sure, they'll spend themselves out of existence" you can rationalize, but in the meantime...missiles, dude.
And the stress will continue is the Tigers also decide to keep on spending like a super-power right up until it all comes crashing down around them.
The financial pratfalls of the Fielder deal are somewhat muted if Detroit simply doesn't care. By reaching out for Fielder just to plug what seemed to be a one-year interlude in waiting for Martinez, Ilitch and the Tigers don't seem to be operating within any traditional budgeting model, but instead signaling a new phase of hyper-aggressive spending while their stars remain in their prime and their largest-budgeted competitors (Twins, White Sox) are stumbling all over themselves.
That's a scary proposition. We deal too often in sweeping absolutes for a sport with so much random variance, but the Tigers certainly made a recklessly forceful statement about their intentions to grab the AL Central by the chokehold until further notice. It may be quite a long time before anyone can draft a rebuttal.
Waiting for this to blow up in their faces is going to be hell.
In the meantime, here's a story about what Dunn did during the off-season, I'm sure it won't be disappointing in any way. Haha, k-bye, goodnight!
*I'm not actually comparing the Tigers to the Soviets. They're a baseball team!!! I'm not insane!**
Tags: Adam Dunn, Alex Avila, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, boston red sox, brandon inge, dave dombrowski, Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers, Doug Fister, Eduardo Escobar, Gavin Floyd, jhonny peralta, Kenny Williams, magglio ordonez, mark reynolds, miguel cabrera, mike ilitch, Phil Rogers, Prince Fielder, Rick Porcello, Robin Ventura, tyler saladino, victor martinez, White Sox