Detroit Tigers fans were given reprieve from an unlikely source after the news came that Victor Martinez will not play in 2012. The Tigers inked Prince Fielder to an outrageous contract for nine years, worth $214 million.
Folks inside the Tigers organization think this deal is Owner Mike Ilitch’s baby. Ilitch, 82, has always had a liberal checkbook. Just ask former Tigers Magglio Ordoñez, Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield. Ilitch wants a World Series title, and he wants it now.
The deal for Prince Fielder has its pros and cons.
Obviously, $214 million for a player with a weight problem is a mistake. It would be for any player not named Albert Pujols. The second problem with the contract besides the dollar figure is the years. Though Fielder is only 27, his father, former Tiger Cecil Fielder, had a similar weight problem and was out of the league before he was 36. Genes would suggest long-term durability may be a concern.
My third concern with the deal is the money will go to his head, and Fielder will get complacent. The last thing I want is this superstar pulling his best Dontrelle Willis impersonation and being ineffective during his tenure with Detroit. With a monstrous contract over the course of the better part of a decade, the last thing the Tigers need is a bad contract.
Plus, there is the Miguel Cabrera issue. Cabrera claims he is a natural third basemen. I think most Tigers fans know Cabrera to be as athletic as Oprah Winfrey. With Cabrera making the move to third base to make room for Fielder at first, the Tigers are ignoring defense completely.
Though the contract is too long and for too much money, it does have its benefits. The first is lineup flexibility. Prince Fielder is never hurt, so he will be in the lineup almost every day. Tigers manager Jim Leyland also has the option to plug Fielder in the third or fourth spot in the batting order.
The Tigers have become the best team on paper when it comes to hitting the ball. Having sluggers like Cabrera, Fielder, Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young, there is no question Tigers fans will be catching a lot of homerun balls in left and right field this year.
With Prince Fielder, the Tigers have set themselves up for success through 2015. I say 2015 because that is the year Miguel Cabrera’s contract expires. It’s difficult to foresee the Tigers will be able to carry three players with contracts worth over $20 million per year when you add Justin Verlander to the equation.
That gives the Tigers four years to compete for a World Series. Throw 2016 through 2020 out the window. If the Tigers have a World Series under their belt after Cabrera’s contract is up, the Fielder signing will be considered a success regardless of what happens in the following five years.
I still firmly believe the Tigers need one more arm to make this team the most complete in baseball. My solution would be to put Justin Verlander on an airplane right now, send him to free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt’s home with an autographed picture of Prince Fielder and reintroduce the contract Detroit offered him that he turned down.
Tell Justin to say something along the lines of, “Meet my new best friend. He hits forty homers a year. Here’s a one-year deal worth ten million dollars.”
I would also like a better option at second base than the choice between Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago, but beggars can’t be choosers this late in the off-season.
On the whole, the Prince Fielder acquisition is exciting and makes the team stronger, but there are a lot of lingering concerns. Everyone has an opinion, but no one is going to know the success of the contract until 2015.