In one of the biggest surprise splashes of the off-season, the Detroit Tigers came to agreement with one of the best power hitters in baseball. Largely as a response to C/DH Victor Martinez’s potentially season-ending knee injury, the Detroit Tigers ponied up and gave former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, Prince Fielder, a $200+ million dollar contract. It will make Prince Fielder just one of three players in baseball history to receive a contract in excess of $200 million, the other two being Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.
There’s certainly an element of nostalgia with the signing of Prince Fielder, as his father, Cecil, made his hay with the Detroit Tigers in the early 90s. In fact, Cecil Fielder hit 245 home runs for the Tigers, and Prince spent his youth in Detroit.
The thought of facing Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the same lineup is downright scary. The duo will certainly make the best 3-4 combo in the league, assuming Jim Leyland sets it up that way. Let’s not get carried away though. They didn’t just add Prince Fielder, they replaced Victor Martinez with Prince Fielder. No doubt that’s an upgrade, but it’s still not quite the same. Alex Avila has thrived as the Tiger’s primary catcher so when Victor Martinez returns from injury he’ll retake his DH spot with Miguel Cabrera moving over to third base to accommodate Fielder. His return will round out a great Tigers lineup, but until then, it’s not really a murder’s row.
Delmon Young was a key piece to re-sign, and Austin Jackson very well may bounce back, but after that the lineup consists of: Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago, Alex Avila, Ryan Raburn, and Brennan Boesch. So you see why they splurged on Prince Fielder?
Now, all us fans of other AL team’s should not get too frightened right away. Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, but he can’t possibly repeat last year’s MVP season. I’d also expect Peralta to regress. The Tigers are prohibitive AL Central favorites, but I’m not quite ready to call them the World Series favorites. For now, they’ll have to share that distinction with the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, and New York Yankees. I may include the Phillies in that list as well.
As for the contract itself…it’s really long and Prince Fielder isn’t exactly built like Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols. If Andruw Jones had signed a nine-year contract after his age 27 season he’d still have two year’s remaining. Imagine the position the Braves would be mired in if they were stuck paying Andruw Jones some $20 million annually. Jones hit 250 home runs through his age 27 season (Fielder has hit 230), and is a power hitter built more like Fielder than either Rodriguez or Pujols so the comparison is pretty fair. I think we’ll see Prince be very effective for the first half his contract, and then likely decline hard. That’s the price you pay to sign a superstar these days. The Tigers are just hoping they can win their first World Series since 1984 in the next couple years while they have Fielder, Cabrera, and Martinez in their primes.
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