Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers

Detroit will pay a king's ransom for Prince Fielder.
Well, I sure didn't see this coming.

Prince Fielder landed with the Tigers — nine years, $214 million, pending a physical (which will doubtless find that he's one really heavy dude).

Long, huge contracts are always a risk, and once this one becomes official it will be the fourth largest ever. It's longer and more costly than even the Joe Mauer contract, and the Twins are probably far less comfortable with that one just one year in than they ever imagined. And Mauer isn't lugging around a big belly.

If you're going to spend $200 million-plus on a player, best that it be one of Fielder's age. It would also be preferred that it not be on one of Fielder's body type.

Fielder can certainly hit. He and Miguel Cabrera figure to be as imposing a pair of back-to-back hitters as one could hope for -- as was Fielder and Ryan Braun in Milwaukee. But both Fielder and Cabrera have been first basemen for several seasons now, neither is particularly agile, and neither wants a steady diet of DHing.

Cabrera, who was moved from third base in 2008 after embarrassing himself with five errors in 14 games, is supposedly to return to the hot corner. Considering that the Detroit shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, was moved to third base by the Cleveland Indians because of his lack of range, and that their patchwork at second base frequently involves a transplanted outfielder (Ryan Raburn) and this has the very real possibility of being the worst defensive infield I'll ever see in the majors.

But the Tigers are heavy on power pitchers, and if anybody is equipped to play with an infield of Iron Gloves, it would be a staff led by guys like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Rick Porcello, not so much.

The middle of the Tigers lineup certainly won't be fun to pitch against the next few years, so in the short run, the Fielder signing may work. In the long run, guaranteeing a player with Fielder's conditioning issues that much money for that long a term is lunacy. But Mike Ilitch, the pizza magnate and former minor leaguer who owns the Tigers, is in his 80s. In the long run, he's dead. He wants a World Series first.

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