Prince Fielder

The Tigers and Rangers trade is just as much about past mistakes as it is about current need

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In case you missed the big news last night, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler. Detroit is sending along around $30 million. The net result: the Tigers get Kinsler and about $70 million in salary relief, the Rangers get seven years of Fielder and a $138 million bill for his services.

I’m inclined to agree with Matthew on the overall assessment here. I think the Rangers get better in the short term, as Fielder can be expected to hit better in Texas, be it from just a natural bounceback year or three or be it from a more hitter-friendly ballpark. They also free up a permanent position for Jurickson Profar, and that’s good too.  On the whole, though, I think the Tigers did better for themselves by freeing up that money and getting Miguel Cabrera off third base and over to first. That said, each team had different goals here and each team, at least on paper, accomplished their goals, so a pure “winner-loser” axis here is kind of dumb.

But a trade like this, so clearly based on (1) the Tigers wanting to get out from under a big contract; and (2) the Rangers wanting to add some pop at first base, speaks just as much to these teams’ past mistakes as it does to their current needs and goals.

The Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million deal. His trade clearly indicates that they don’t think he’s worth that now, even if they thought so two years ago. That kind of regret over big contracts is pretty widespread these days. The Angels are likely wishing they hadn’t given big, long deals to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The Yankees clearly regret the Alex Rodriguez deal. Joe Mauer’s deal runs through 2018 and, given that he’s no longer a catcher, it can’t make the Twins brass feel great. Mark Teixeira’s deal is a drag. Matt Kemp might crumble into dust before he’s halfway into his $160 million contract.  The list goes on and on.

While long, rich deals to players who have yet to reach free agency may turn out to be good ones — deals like those given to Joey Votto and Felix Hernandez — and while long-term extensions to players teams have developed and thus got the advantage of their cheap years make a bit more economic sense, recent baseball history has shown that the bulk of these $150 million+ contracts are awful. Especially ones given to guys who actually reached free agency before signing. The last truly great one that was given out was probably Derek Jeter’s $189 million deal. That’s the exception, not the rule. Yet teams continue to give them out. Someone will give one out to Robinson Cano this season. In a couple of years it’ll look bad too and everyone will wonder why it seemed to damn important to unload the money truck for him now.

The Rangers acquisition of an expensive power-hitting first baseman speaks of other mistakes. Specifically, letting cheap power-hitting first basemen leave. They dealt Chris Davis in 2011 and all he’s done since then is hit 33 and then 53 homers for Baltimore. Many years before that they let Adrian Gonzalez go. Now, to make room for Fielder, Mitch Moreland is probably gonna go on the block. I’m not suggesting that he’s the next Chris Davis or Adrian Gonzalez, but either the Rangers ability to develop raw-but-powerful first basemen into good everyday players is lacking or their judgment about when such guys will naturally peak is off. I guess you’d have to ask Jon Daniels what he thinks about that.

Either way, the Tigers now get a do-over on the biggest contract they’ve ever handed out. The Rangers get someone to occupy first base and the cleanup spot, albeit at great cost. Will either of these teams be more reluctant to hand out gigantic deals to free agents and/or cut bait on young power as a result? One would hope so.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.