Tag: Vernon Wells

Prince Fielder

Tigers win big in shedding Prince Fielder’s contract


Give lots of credit to Dave Dombrowski; the potential nightmare back half of Prince Fielder’s nine-year, $214 million contract is no more.

Instead, Fielder and the $168 million he’s still owed is gone after two mildly disappointing seasons in Detroit, with Ian Kinsler’s more palatable deal coming back. The Tigers sent along $30 million in order to facilitate the deal, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan.

Kinsler, who is owed $62 million for four years or $67 million for five if his option is picked up, supplants free agent Omar Infante as the Tigers’ second baseman. He won’t replace Fielder’s bat in the cleanup spot, but he can be just as valuable of a player, depending on how much of Fielder’s decline these last two years is for real.

Most importantly, the move shores up Detroit’s defense by getting Miguel Cabrera back to first base where he belongs. Now the Tigers can also return top prospect Nick Castellanos to his original position of third base. He was moved to left field last year because of Cabrera’s presence a the hot corner.

As of this moment, it looks like the trade frees up $8 million for the Tigers to spend this winter, though that depends on the schedule of the cash payments to Texas. If the Tigers aren’t confident in Castellanos, they could go sign Juan Uribe to play third base. They can also use some of the savings on their bullpen. For the long haul, that Fielder cash may be earmarked for a new Max Scherzer deal. Scherzer, the Al Cy Young Award winner, is a free agent after next season.

The Rangers get better on the field with the one-for-one deal, but it’s at a cost of inheriting one of the game’s worst contract. Most likely, Fielder will put up a better line next year than the .279/.362/.457 he hit while going through a divorce in a career-worst 2013 season. He’s just turning 30 in May, and while his body type suggests an early decline is quite possible, he probably has at least one or two more .900-OPS seasons in him. Also, the Rangers now have their spot freed up for young Jurickson Profar, who will step in at second base and could be an All-Star come 2015 or 2016.

Still, the Rangers didn’t need to go this route. They could have signed Mike Napoli for something like $45 million over three years. They could have shifted Kinsler to the outfield or traded him for a youngster or two, perhaps without eating any portion of his salary. Going after Fielder instead looks like an ownership move more along the lines of what we’ve come to expect from the Angels (Vernon Wells, Albert Pujols). It should work out fine for a couple of years, but what comes afterwards could get ugly.

So, what’s the market for Billy Butler anyway?

Josh Phegley, Jerry Meals, Billy Butler

This kind of doubles as a “what’s the market for Kendrys Morales?” post, too.

Anyway, the Royals have let it be known that Billy Butler is available, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Had they done this a year ago, they would have been in line for a nice return. Now? Probably not so much. Butler will make $8 million next year, and his deal includes a 2015 option worth $12.5 million-$14.5 million, plus he’s due a little bonus if traded. For a pure DH, that’s a substantial sum. Also, Butler is also coming off his worst season since 2009. I assume he has better seasons in front of him, but since he’s a zero with the glove and a big minus on the basepaths, he needs to hit .300 with 25 homers per year in order to be a major asset.

So, what teams might be in the market for a rather costly DH this winter?

Baltimore: A strong right-handed hitter to plop behind Chris Davis in the lineup would do the Orioles a lot of good.

Seattle: I tried to get behind a Butler-to-Seattle deal last year before the Mariners acquired Morales. Maybe it could happen this winter, but only if Morales rejects a qualifying offer and leaves in free agency. That’d be a dangerous gamble for him.

Texas: The Rangers gave Lance Berkman a whirl last winter, but it didn’t work out. ¬†They could still use a true DH, but a left-hander would be nice considering that Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre all swing righty.

New York: The Yankees have preferred to bargain hunt for DH options of late, and they may not be able to take on a pure one unless they decide to release Vernon Wells. Depending on how the outfield shakes out, it may be Alfonso Soriano’s spot.

Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay figures to add a part-time DH to replace Luke Scott, but they’ll be looking into the bargain bin.

Oakland: GM Billy Beane seems to be prizing versatility and flexibility with his lineup, and on the off chance he does look to add a big bat, it’d probably be a left-hander to hit between Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.

Minnesota: The Twins could certainly use the offense, but they’re not in any sort of position to give up talent for an $8 million DH.

Cleveland: The Indians intend to bring back free agent Jason Giambi, and they’ll probably continue giving Carlos Santana starts at DH with Yan Gomes behind the plate.

Los Angeles: Between Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, there’s no room for a full-time DH in Anaheim.

Houston: There’s better way for the Astros to spend if they’re going to loosen the purse strings.

That’s maybe three legitimate suitors for Butler in Baltimore, Seattle and Texas. NL teams aren’t really any sort of an option; Butler can play first base when necessary, but no team is going to want him as a full-timer there. Given the limited market, I’m not sure it makes much sense for the Royals to move him. They still have a whole lot of use for his right-handed bat for one thing. If they could get a top prospect in return, it might be worth going in a different direction. But that return probably isn’t out there.

Morales faces the same sort of problem if he turns down the Mariners’ $13.5 million-$14 million qualifying offer. No, a team won’t have to trade for him, but it will have to forfeit a pick to sign him, which could be just as bad. Perhaps a couple of NL teams will consider Morales as a first baseman — he’s more viable there than Butler is — but I’m really skeptical he’ll get a three- or four-year deal.

2013 leads the way in spectacularly bad offensive performances

B.J. Upton

By OPS, the 2013 season boasts three of the six worst offensive seasons since 2000:

.545 – Cesar Izturis (2010 Orioles)
.559 – Alcides Escobar (2013 Royals)
.562 – Nick Punto (2007 Twins)
.564 – Neifi Perez (2002 Royals)
.565 – Adeiny Hechavarria (2013 Marlins)
.569 – Darwin Barney (2013 Cubs)
.576 – Ramon Santiago (2003 Tigers)
.588 – Michael Bourn (2008 Astros)
.592 – Angel Berroa (2006 Royals)
.593 – Brad Ausmus (2006 Astros)

Yes, the Royals have had some shortstop troubles through the years.

Now, those are just the guys that qualified for the batting title. It doesn’t count Pete Kozma’s .548 mark in 410 at-bats or B.J. Upton’s .556 in 391 at-bats. Upton, though, does have the very worst OPS for an outfielder minimum 400 plate appearances since 2000.

.557 – B.J. Upton (2013 Braves)
.559 – Willy Taveras (2009 Reds)
.560 – Peter Bergeron (2001 Expos)

And how about Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia? He finished six plate appearances shy of qualifying for the batting title or his .595 OPS would have put him 12th on the first list. What’s amazing is that he managed the sub-.600 OPS while hitting 21 homers. That’s far and away the worst OPS ever for a 20-homer guy:

.595 – J.P. Arencibia (2013 Blue Jays)
.649 – Willie Kirkland (1962 Indians)
.654 – Marquis Grissom (2001 Dodgers)
.660 – Vernon Wells (2011 Angels)
.663 – Tony Batista (2003 Orioles)

And what’s a “spectacularly bad offensive performances” article without a Yuniesky Betancourt cameo. With his .595 OPS, Betancourt didn’t rank among the very worst hitters this year, but he was spectacularly bad for a guy who played first base half of the time.

Here are the worst OPSs for first baseman (min. 400 plate appearances) during the expansion era (1961-present):

.566 – Ed Kranepool (1968 Mets)
.591 – Dan Meyer (1978 Mariners)
.595 – Yuniesky Betancourt (2013 Brewers)
.600 – Enos Cabell (1981 Astros)
.602 – Pete Rose (1983 Phillies)