The Prince Fielder contract: all kinds of crazy

98 Comments

For almost every big free agent deal there are (a) the financial implications; and (b) the baseball implications. Often a deal is good on the baseball side of things but not so good on the financial side of things.  In the case of Prince Fielder going to the Tigers for nine years and $214 million, it makes very little sense on either side of the ledger.

This is not to say that signing Prince Fielder makes the Tigers a worse baseball team in 2012 than they were in 2011. Far from it.  With Victor Martinez out all year following knee surgery and the Tigers’ lineup already looking suspect beyond MVP-caliber first basemen Miguel Cabrera, Fielder’s bat is going to pay immediate dividends and should make the Tigers the favorites to repeat in the AL Central.

But what helps the lineup in 2012 creates both roster problems and financial problems going forward.

Victor Martinez will be back in 2013 and will be owed $13 million. And he’s still under contract for 2014 to the tune of $12 million. Thanks to the presence of Alex Avila and his own balky knees, Martinez’s days at catcher are basically over. That means that in Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez, the Tigers will have three expensive men for two positions for at least two years after this one. And to be honest, come 2014, all three of them should probably be playing DH anyway, as both Cabrera and Fielder are among the worst defensive first basemen in baseball.

But the roster problems extend beyond next year, and they become combined roster/payroll problems.  The $214 million owed Fielder, as well as the money owed Cabrera and Martinez, already represent a lot of cash owed to very few players.  Then you figure that Justin Verlander is going to need a pretty massive extension before the end of the 2014 season and you have a very top-heavy payroll.

And finally, there’s the contract for its own sake. Prince Fielder turns 28 early this season, so he is younger than your average big-splash free agent and thus nine years for him isn’t as bad as nine years for a 30 or 31-year-old. But it’s hard to envision a world in which paying him $40 million for 2019 and 2020 is going to pay off for the Tigers.  Such contracts have rarely if ever paid off for anyone.

But that’s the future. For the present, this deal does make the Tigers better.  Not perfect. The Tigers still have many holes in their lineup.  The team’s strength is still its pitching. Justin Verlander is the best in the AL, but it’s not like he can get better than he was in 2011. Jose Valverde was fantastic in 2011, but he’s actually, you know, gonna blow some saves at some point. Maybe Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer improve. Maybe they don’t. The point is that there are way more moving parts on a team than the well-appointed third and fourth slots in the 2012 Tigers’ lineup.

Signing Fielder likely ensures another AL Central crown. So, if you’re a Tigers fan, yes, you should be happy. But it doesn’t guarantee anything more than that and may hinder the Tigers’ competitiveness in the future. So try to keep your excitement under control.

Video: Hanley Ramirez’s No. 250 career home run barely left the field

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hanley Ramirez played a pivotal role during the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Angels on Friday night, crushing a two-run homer off of Alex Meyer to bring the Sox up to a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Well, crushed might be the wrong word. The ball cleared the right field fence with a mere 350 feet, landing just beyond Pesky’s Pole to bring Ramirez’s career home run total to an even 250.

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Ramirez’s milestone blast wasn’t the shortest home run of the year — not by a long shot. That distinction currently belongs to Rays’ outfielder Corey Dickerson, who skimmed the left field fence at Rogers Centre with a 326-foot homer back in April.

Asdrubal Cabrera requests trade from Mets

Getty Images
5 Comments

It’s shortstop or bust for Asdrubal Cabrera, who told reporters Friday that he will request a trade from the Mets after getting bumped to second base (via Newsday’s Marc Carig). Cabrera served as the club’s starting shortstop through the first few months of the 2017 season, but lost the role to Jose Reyes while serving a stint on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb. The switch was confirmed prior to the Mets’ series opener against the Giants on Friday, prompting Cabrera to announce his trade request before taking the field.

Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo:

Personally, I’m not really happy with that move,” Cabrera said. “If they have that plan, they should have told me before I came over here. I just told my agent about it. If they have that plan for me, I think it’s time to make a move. What I saw the last couple of weeks, I don’t think they have any plans for me. I told my agent, so we’re going to see what happens in the next couple weeks.

Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson appeared skeptical of Cabrera’s request, telling reporters that he wasn’t sure a trade was “something [Cabrera] really wishes” and saying the team would wait and see how the situation shakes out. That doesn’t mean the veteran infielder will see a return to short anytime soon, however, only that he might have a change of heart after settling into his new role.

This isn’t the first time Cabrera has balked at a position change. The Mets reportedly considered shifting him to third base earlier this season, but ultimately decided to keep him at short and denied his request to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2018, something Alderson said has little to no precedent. Further changes may be on the horizon when 21-year-old infield prospect Amed Rosario gets called up from Triple-A Las Vegas and second baseman Neil Walker returns from the disabled list, though the team has yet to address either situation.