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.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.