Prince Fielder needs to be a full-time designated hitter

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After the stunning news that the Tigers had signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract came another little bombshell, courtesy of CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:

prince will be the first baseman, for anyone asking. cabrera will have to change role.

FOXSports.com’s Danny Knobler, a former Tigers beat writer, made the same claim minutes later (he probably would have had it first if he didn’t bother with that pesky capitalization):

Expect the Tigers to play Prince every day at 1B, and to move Cabrera to 3B. And don’t be surprised if he’s better there than you think.

So, that’s the way it will likely be aligned at the start of the spring. Still, if the Tigers actually start the season that way, they’ll have the game’s worst infield defense and possibly the worst seen in the league in a few years. Some days, it would include three players who were moved off their current positions, only to return later:

– The Marlins stopped playing Cabrera at third base after the 2007 season.

–  The Indians shifted Jhonny Peralta from shortstop to third base in 2009 before the Tigers put him back there a year later.

– Ryan Raburn will compete with Ramon Santiago for time at second base. The Tigers originally stopped playing Raburn at second in 2008 before giving him 15 starts there in 2010 and 55 starts there last year (even though he opened the season behind Will Rhymes, Santiago, Scott Sizemore and the injured Carlos Guillen in the pecking order).

The Tigers can probably afford to start the season that way. I doubt they’ll be able to afford to finish it with such an alignment. The only reason for them to do it is if it was a condition of Fielder picking Detroit. It makes no sense for baseball reasons, not when they just lost Victor Martinez, their full-time DH, to a torn ACL. Fielder at DH, Cabrera at first base and Brandon Inge at third is the right alignment for these Tigers for now. Inge should at least flash an above average glove, and if he doesn’t hit much better than last year, a cheap third baseman can be acquired later.

And if it is a condition of Fielder’s arrival that he has to play first, then sticking Cabrera in left field and Delmon Young at DH would be a superior alternative to the other plan. Young’s a big liability in the field anyway, so the Tigers probably wouldn’t lose much defensively by going to Cabrera there.

But let’s face it: the Tigers only wanted Fielder for his bat. Shaking up the whole defense to make room for it simply doesn’t add up, and it would likely cost the team some of what it gains with his arrival.

Angels fire back at Rob Manfred’s comments re: Mike Trout

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s marketability has been a topic of conversation in recent days as the best players in baseball converged upon Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game. We learned that, according to one firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, Trout is as recognizable to the average American as Brooklyn Nets reserve forward Kenneth Faried, despite being far and away the best player in baseball and one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Commissioner Rob Manfred also addressed Trout’s marketability, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reported. Manfred said, “Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very bug. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”

The Angels fired back on Wednesday, releasing a statement that said:

On behalf of the Angels Organization and baseball fans everywhere, congratulations to Mike Trout on another outstanding All-Star Game performance.

Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.

In addition, Mike spends quality time as a husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion. That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.

It’s not on Trout to build a brand that appeals to MLB’s marketing department, so the Angels are right to back Trout’s decision to stay out of the limelight. The Angels’ motivation likely isn’t entirely selfless, however, as supporting him in this situation may make it more enticing for him to sign a contract extension before his current contract expires after the 2020 season.