Weekly email list
- Astros Sign Daz Cameron To $4MM Bonus
- Pete Mackanin To Manage Phillies For Rest Of Season
- Giants Designate Casey McGehee For Assignment
- Follow MLB Trade Rumors On Instagram
- Dylan Bundy Shut Down Indefinitely
- Blue Jays Expect To Be Active On Pitching Market
- Phillies Hire Andy MacPhail As Pat Gillick’s Successor
- Giancarlo Stanton Has Broken Bone In Hand
- Astros Targeting Cueto Over Hamels
- Cole Hamels Would Consider Trade To Any Team
Trade Rumors Apps
- Trade Rumors iOS App
- Trade Rumors Android App
- MLBTR Podcast
- 2014-15 MLB Free Agent Tracker
- 2015 MLB Free Agent List
- 2015 Arbitration Tracker
- Projected Arbitration Salaries For 2015
- Free Agent Contest Leaderboard
- Reverse Standings
- 2016 MLB Free Agent List
- Transaction Tracker
- DFA Tracker
- Agency Database
- Hot Stove Glossary
- MLBTR On Facebook
- MLBTR On Twitter
- Team Twitter/RSS Feeds
- Team Facebook Pages
- Hoops Rumors
- Pro Football Rumors
- Pirates Face Roster Decision On Clayton Richard
- Cuban Outfielder Yadiel Hernandez Defects
- Athletics Sign First-Rounder Richie Martin
- Astros Sign Daz Cameron To $4MM Bonus
- Pete Mackanin To Manage Phillies For Rest Of Season
- Rays Sign First-Rounder Garrett Whitley
- AL East Notes: Buchholz, Donaldson, Warren, Norris
- Jared Burton Granted Release By Rangers
- Giants Designate Casey McGehee For Assignment
- Red Sox To Sign First-Rounder Andrew Benintendi
- Which Rule 5 Picks Are Still With Their New Teams?
- Follow MLB Trade Rumors On Instagram
- AL West Notes: Angels, Astros, L.J. Hoes, Athletics
- NL East Notes: Braves, Mets, Phillies
- Draft Signings: Abdullah, Simcox, Pruitt
Rumors by team
- Angels Rumors
- Astros Rumors
- Athletics Rumors
- Blue Jays Rumors
- Braves Rumors
- Brewers Rumors
- Cardinals Rumors
- Cubs Rumors
- Diamondbacks Rumors
- Dodgers Rumors
- Giants Rumors
- Indians Rumors
- Mariners Rumors
- Marlins Rumors
- Mets Rumors
- Nationals Rumors
- Orioles Rumors
- Padres Rumors
- Phillies Rumors
- Pirates Rumors
- Rangers Rumors
- Rays Rumors
- Red Sox Rumors
- Reds Rumors
- Rockies Rumors
- Royals Rumors
- Tigers Rumors
- Twins Rumors
- White Sox Rumors
- Yankees Rumors
Prince Fielder Rumors
Prince Fielder is one of several players whose hoped-for return to past production levels will go a long way toward determining the near-term fate of the Rangers. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News provides an interesting profile of Fielder, who says he is recharged, newly appreciative, and raring to go for 2015.
Here are a few more notes from around the league:
- The Orioles are headed toward an arbitration hearing with outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Executive VP Dan Duquette explains that the club informed De Aza it had made him its best offer and would take a “file to go” strategy from that point forward. He expressed surprise that the team’s $5MM proposal was not accepted, noting that there had been discussions of a two-year deal as well. De Aza filed at $5.65MM, which actually falls shy of the $5.9MM that MLBTR and Matt Swartz projected. Baltimore’s arbitration strategy was actually the first topic covered by Kubatko in his recent appearance on the MLBTR Podcast.
- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said today that the league’s investigation into possible tampering by the Cubs into then-Rays manager Joe Maddon is still in progress, as ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers reports. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Maddon’s agent, Alen Nero, have both insisted that nothing untoward occurred, but it appears that MLB will take its time and cover the matter thoroughly before coming to any conclusions.
- Max Scherzer‘s departure from the Tigers appears to have been all but a formality from the point that he rejected the club’s $140MM offer last spring, as the righty explained to MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Scherzer said that he wasn’t interested in holding contract talks during the season, and that the club was not interested in negotiating when Scherzer’s camp “reached out” over the offseason. Indeed, Scherzer said that both he and Rick Porcello realized some time ago that the club was likely going to undergo a lot of turnover in the coming years, which has indeed been the case.
- As for his choice of the Nationals, Scherzer gave some further details on how the end game went down: “Of the teams that were really down to the end, the Nationals gave me the best opportunity [to win]. So because of that, that’s the recent why I told Scott [Boras] at the end, ‘Let’s just negotiate with the Nationals.'”
Earlier today we learned that Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder was “seriously considering” season-ending surgery to fix a herniated disc in his neck. Later, an afternoon conference call with Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed that the five-time All-Star will go ahead with that plan. Naturally, the injury to Fielder raised speculation from many that the Rangers could consider free agent Kendrys Morales. While Daniels didn’t refer to the former Mariners slugger directly, I asked him if he might consider making a notable out-of-house pickup to fill the void in the batting order.
“Not today, not right now,” Daniels said. “I think that our focus right now is on the group of guys [including the injured Jurickson Profar and Dan Robertson] that are going to come back…There’s a group of guys that are up here in the big leagues that have put together a few good games this week, and we want to see if we can build on that and then evaluate where we are and adjust if that time comes.”
The Rangers received $30MM from the Tigers to help cover part of Fielder’s deal, but with an Opening Day payroll north of $136MM, one might wonder if the owners are feeling tapped out. When I asked Daniels if he might be afforded some financial flexibility to make a significant out-of-house addition, he simply said that he’s not willing to divulge one way or another.
In addition to losing Fielder, the Rangers also got some bad news concerning Profar, who will be sidelined another 8 to 12 weeks thanks to the Grade 2 strain in his right arm. That’s similar to the timeline we initially heard on Profar in late March, but the clock has been reset and this time around his rehab process will be “even more conservative.” With the rash of injuries that the Rangers have had to deal with, Daniels had a hard time concealing his frustration.
“My reaction to the news unfortunately wasn’t surprise just because from talking to [Prince] and seeing him, we knew that this was serious. We were hoping the injection could keep him comfortable and get him through the season. Sometimes you have that response. His response was initially positive,” Daniels said. “The upside is that I’ve been told that this particular surgery has a high success rate. It doesn’t have the same level of risk that a lumbar [problem] of the lower back has in terms of how you use those two parts of the body and the weight you have to support. I’m looking forward to seeing this guy healthy and what he can do, but that’s more of a 2015 and beyond thing.”
The other silver lining, if there is one, is that Profar is not ticketed for surgery at this time. For Fielder, he’ll have to have a cervical fusion on his c5 and c6 vertebrae on Tuesday. One might wonder if the problem could have been caught if the Rangers had Fielder undergo a full physical after acquiring him, but Daniels says that a cervical MRI wouldn’t have been conducted anyway since there was no prior issue there.
It remains to be seen whether the Rangers will make a splashy move to help bolster their weakened lineup, but there’s no doubt that they’ll miss Fielder in 2014.
5:14pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers do have insurance on Fielder’s contract, but it likely won’t save them much in 2014. The policy pays out 50 cents on the dollar for every dollar owed past a certain time period, which is believed to be around 90 days. Grant estimates that the policy will save the Rangers a little north of $2MM this season.
4:48pm: Daniels also informed reporters that Profar has suffered a Grade 2 strain in his arm. While there’s no set timetable for his return, the recovery time is likely 8 to 12 weeks, according to Daniels.
4:40pm: GM Jon Daniels has informed reporters on a conference call that Fielder is scheduled for season-ending surgery next Tuesday. They will seek one final opinion before proceeding with the procedure, but surgery appears to be a near certainty. As Daniels explains, a cervical MRI — which is not part of any standard physical — would’ve been required to catch any such issue with Fielder.
2:49pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Fielder is also undergoing a second MRI today as he looks to determine the best course of action (Twitter link).
2:09pm: Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder is “seriously considering” undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Fielder received a root-nerve injection over the weekend and is meeting with spine specialist Dr. Drew Dossett today instead of traveling to his former home of Comerica Park for the team’s series against the Tigers. While Fielder can hope that the injection provides some relief, it won’t change the fact that the herniated disc is still pinching a portion of the nerve in his neck, causing weakness in his left arm.
Losing Fielder for the season would be another blow to a Rangers team that has been beleaguered by injuries all season. The Rangers opened the season knowing that Derek Holland would miss the first half of the season, and since that time they’ve also seen Martin Perez go down with Tommy John surgery and Matt Harrison re-aggravate a back injury that now appears to be career-threatening. The team is also currently without Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto — both of whom were expected to be regulars in manager Ron Washington’s lineup.
The Rangers acquired Fielder and $30MM from the Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler this winter in what was perhaps the biggest blockbuster of the offseason. Fielder is earning $24MM this season and will be paid the same amount each year through the 2020 campaign, though beginning in the 2016 season, Detroit will begin paying out its $30MM in installments of $6MM per year.
Fielder, acquired to bolster the Rangers’ lineup, has instead batted just .247/.360/.360 in 178 plate appearances. It’s hard to chalk up a major injury for Fielder to anything other than rotten luck for the Rangers, as Fielder had previously missed just one game in the past five seasons. He’d played in 157 games in each of full season of his career prior to this injury.
Should Fielder go down for the season, Mitch Moreland would likely shift back to first base and handle the position on an everyday basis. One has to wonder if a season-ending injury could cause the Rangers to reconsider a run at Kendrys Morales, who, like Fielder, is represented by Scott Boras. That, of course, is purely my own speculation at this point.
Here’s the latest on the injury front:
- The White Sox have placed Jose Abreu on the 15-day disabled list with posterior tibial tendinitis in his left ankle, reports MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Abreu returned to Chicago today for an examination and was placed in a boot to immobilize the ankle and help facilitate the recovery process. He also will undergo further tests, such as another MRI, and further treatment for at least another day. The rookie sensation is paying early dividends on his six-year, $68MM contract, batting .260/.312/.595 with a MLB-leading 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in 189 plate appearances.
- The Nationals placed Gio Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation, but the left-hander’s enhanced MRI exam revealed no further damage and confirmed he will only require rest, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- The Braves‘ Jonny Venters threw batting practice Wednesday and the session was cut short after he reported soreness in his left elbow, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien. “It was just a little sore, so they shut him down and didn’t continue,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “They didn’t seem concerned, they made it sound like it was part of the process – first time he’s faced hitters and that kind of stuff.” Venters is just over a year removed from his second Tommy John surgery.
- The Rangers‘ injury woes continue with Prince Fielder undergoing a nerve-root injection for a herniated disc in his neck, reports Jay Jaffe of SI.com. Fielder, slashing only .247/.360/.360 with three home runs in 178 plate appearances, says his neck has bothered him since last season, but has worsened lately. Jaffe notes Fielder waited until last month to inform the Rangers of his injury, which has caused pain and stiffness in his neck and weakness in his left arm.
- Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda is still on track for an early-June return after a successful bullpen session Friday, according to ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews (h/t: Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues).
- Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley could rejoin the team next Sunday, tweets Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network (h/t: Axisa). Kelley, nursing a back injury, will play catch Monday and Tuesday, throw a bullpen Wednesday, and make a minor league rehab appearance Friday.
Mitch Moreland has "no idea" where he might end up or what his role will be now that the Rangers have acquired Prince Fielder and cash in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant writes. "I’m just a player," Moreland says. "To be honest, I haven’t thought about my situation much. Come spring, I will be ready to play, whether it is here in Texas or somewhere else." Even with Fielder in the fold, the Rangers could find plenty of at-bats for Moreland, both at DH and in the outfield. A trade might also be a possibility. Here are more notes on the deal.
- After the Fielder deal, it's unlikely the Rangers will trade either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to the Cardinals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz profiles the Cards' other options for acquiring a shortstop, which include free agents (Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta, Rafael Furcal) and numerous trade candidates. The best option, Miklasz argues, is J.J. Hardy, who has one year left on his deal with the Orioles.
- The Rangers were a suitor for Fielder when he was a free agent two years ago, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The Tigers ended up signing him, obviously. But the interactions the Rangers had with Fielder then helped convince him to approve a deal to Texas. "It definitely didn't hurt," says Fielder. "Everybody was real nice. I liked those guys."
There's been an overwhelming amount written on last night's blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder and $30MM to the Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler and the remaining $62MM on his contract, and we'll round up reactions and ripple effects from the trade here with one more post on the mega-deal…
- The Rangers are still willing to include Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in the right trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal speculates on a trade that could send Andrus or Profar to St. Louis or a Profar package to entice the Rays to part with David Price.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if shedding Kinsler puts the Rangers in the market for Robinson Cano. Texas could trade Andrus or Profar and make a run at the lifetime Yankee. Sherman also points out that the move at least opens a window for Jhonny Peralta to return to the Tigers as a third baseman — a situation that wasn't possible 48 hours ago.
- If the Tigers' new windfall allows them to lock up Max Scherzer to a multiyear contract, it'd be bad news for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. That scenario decrease Jon Lester's competition on next year's free agent market, making him that much more difficult to re-sign. Bradford opines that the Sox should try to beat the Tigers to the punch and work out a new deal with Lester sooner rather than later.
- ESPN's Buster Olney looks at the winners and losers of the trade in an Insider-only piece, noting that there are many of each. The Tigers top Olney's list of nine winners, while the 2014 Rangers come in at No. 8 on that list. Olney lists the 2016-20 Rangers as losers in the deal, noting that they'll be paying a premium for Fielder's decline. Olney spoke with three evaluators from uninvolved teams, and all three like the deal for Detroit. While the consensus is that the Tigers came out ahead, none of the three condemned the deal for Texas.
- Olney's colleague, Keith Law, writes that in a baseball sense, he'd rather roll the dice on Fielder than Kinsler, who has shown real signs of decline (Insider subscription required). Law writes that both teams win in the sense that they can clear an everyday spot for their top prospect. While Fielder is a good bet to rebound in 2014, in Law's opinion, he's also more likely to become an overpaid player that isn't worth a roster spot than Kinsler.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs loves the trade for Detroit, as they escape the burden of Fielder's contract and replace him with a player Cameron feels will post a similar WAR total in 2014. Plus, he adds, the $76MM savings would be enough to potentiall add Curtis Granderson and Joe Nathan to the fold. "Kinsler, Granderson, and Nathan, or Prince Fielder? These aren’t even close," writes Cameron.
- Cameron also analyzed the deal from the Rangers' point of view, and while he's not as quick to heap praise on Texas, he understands the thinking and doesn't consider it a loss for the team. GM Jon Daniels found a good way to move Kinsler and add a first baseman, and opened up a hole for someone who is expected to become a very good player, says Cameron, "…But it was an expensive trade to make, and no team has unlimited resources."
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet examines what the trade means for the Tigers, the Rangers, the free agent market and Scott Boras. Nicholson-Smith says that while it's easy to see why Fielder appealed to the Rangers and he makes their team better, the move is a "clear win" for Dombrowski.
- The trade affords both team a fresh start and the ability to move on from a pair of misplaced players, writes Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). While second basemen tend to age poorly and Fielder's average fly-ball distance is dropping, both can still be productive players in their new environments, says Miller.
- Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal that news of the trade was like "getting smoked on the left side of the head" but in a good way. Kinsler is excited for the move and says winning is the most important thing to him. While he didn't want to be traded, he could see the writing on the wall that he may not be in the team's long-term plans, writes Rosenthal.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at the trade earlier today and examined the multiple needs addressed for each team in the deal. He also wonders if there was a cheaper way for the Tigers to get out from Fielder's contract, such as re-signing Omar Infante and trading Fielder plus $42MM for a cheaper, more controllable player.
- Our own Jeff Todd also weighed in on how the deal impacts the long-term payroll outlook for each team and how it impacts other aspects of the trade and free agent markets. The front-loaded nature of the Rangers' existing contract structure made the Rangers an ideal candidate to take on Fielder's deal, in Jeff's opinion.
In case you missed it — or, perhaps, thought the headlines were fantasy baseball musings rather than a real thing — the Tigers and Rangers consummated a rather substantial trade last night. The clubs swapped the big contracts owed Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler, with $30MM also heading to Texas. In sum, then, the Rangers have added $76MM in salary, and each team has plugged a hole that it might otherwise have addressed in free agency.
While the ultimate impact on the fortunes of the two ballclubs involved will not be known for some time, the broader effects on the free agent and trade market will be sizeable and immediate. Here are some initial thoughts on what that might look like:
Reduction In Demand
First and foremost, both of these big-spending clubs have now filled major vacancies without a single new dollar being committed to the market. And it is entirely possible that neither of those clubs has opened a new hole through the deal, which is probably a big reason why it got done: top prospect Jurickson Profar will step in at second for Texas, while Detroit has internal options to account for its corner infield jobs (including, potentially, its own highly regarded prospect in Nick Castellanos.) If that is indeed the case, the deal is probably bad news for free agents generally, because it takes two premium, high-paying potential jobs off the market.
The impact is even more pronounced because neither Kinsler nor, especially, Fielder were sure things to be dealt this off-season. And tens of millions of dollars figured to be spent on the spots that each will now occupy. The point shouldn't be overstated — after all, Kinsler could well have ended up taking over at first for Texas, and there are still plenty of openings to be filled — but it will have some impact, especially when it comes time for agents to play serious bidders off of one another to drive high prices or prop up low ones. After already seeing international free agents take away possible new homes, guys like Omar Infante and Mike Napoli probably have lost a potential landing spot, and with it some leverage.
Except For Corner Outfielders?
On the other hand, one particular group of free agents could stand to benefit: top corner outfielders. Both the Tigers and Rangers entered the off-season with a need at the corner outfield, as MLBTR's Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth respectively explained. Now, those clubs have found a way to address one need without coming out of their collective pocket. In theory, that should mean more money is free on the market to be spent on outfielding needs.
Enhancing the impact is the fact that multiple mid-tier options — Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus and David Murphy — have already come off the board at fairly substantial prices, setting a high floor. And those signings may not have drastically reduced demand: the Phillies could well still be in on top outfielders, and the Indians were, as Charlie noted, far from certain to spend at the corner outfield coming into the off-season (meaning that Murphy does not really take an obvious, pre-existing landing spot away from free agents). Four of the top twenty open-market players (per MLBTR's Tim Dierkes) are expected to defend the flanks of the outfield, and that already-well-regarded group could see a boost.
A potential corner outfield boom probably requires the Fielder-Kinsler dancemates actually to be buyers in that market. Having made a deal out of left field, are these two clubs now more or less likely — as a practical matter — to spend on left field? While there are arguments in both directions, I think both Texas and Detroit will keep the wallets open for the corners.
You might pencil in the Tigers to apply their cash windfall to a Max Scherzer extension instead. But with a roster begging for another shot or three at a World Series victory, the organization seems relatively unconcerned with limiting short-term payroll. (Indeed, this deal will not help Detroit much in that regard.) Instead, the payroll flexibility needed by GM Dave Dombrowski and co. is in the long run: Fielder promised to be a major drag and an impediment to keeping players like Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera in Motown. But the Tigers should have little problem keeping free future cash for Scherzer while still aggressively pursuing Torii Hunter's mirror image in left field — a strong veteran who figures to land a short- or mid-length deal.
Of course, nothing is decided, and Dombrowski could chase a third baseman or keep Cabrera there while deploying Castellanos in the outfield. But the thin market at the hot corner and Miggy's recent injuries, age, and defensive limitations keep the smart money on a new addition in left.
Meanwhile, the Rangers added salary, which would seem to be a significant drag on outfield spending. But the net payroll impact of $76MM is less than the team would have likely committed to a premium free agent, and the cost was a player that had become expendable. More importantly, because the length of Fielder's deal is the biggest factor in the cost difference, the added dollars mostly impact the payroll further down the line. The Rangers were one of those clubs whose future obligations were fairly front-loaded, making the salary flip relatively easy to stomach in the long run. And in the short run, Texas should remain just about as flexible as it was already.
With first base filled, the corner outfield and catcher are the two clear areas where GM Jon Daniels can most easily add value over the in-house options. Indeed, Daniels noted that the club still intends to add another bat. With the aforementioned Murphy now in Cleveland, the Rangers may at this point be even more likely to spend in the outfield than they were before the deal, when a shift of Kinsler to left was at least a hypothetical possibility.
Shifting Trade Winds
This unexpected blockbuster could also impact several other rumored swaps. With Fielder's remaining seven years off the books, extending (or re-signing) Scherzer now looks a lot more feasible from Detroit's perspective. Indeed, Dombrowski acknowledged that keeping the newly-minted Cy Young winner is now "more possible going forward." As MLBTR's Zach Links noted, that makes speculation that Scherzer might be dealt seem less plausible.
Further, a major premise of the rumors linking the Rangers to star trade chips like David Price and Giancarlo Stanton was the possibility of packaging Profar, a centerpiece that few other organizations could match. But with his name now scratched into the middle infield dirt at Arlington, Texas may no longer have the trump card — or, perhaps more importantly, the desire and ability to deal from depth — that made it a seeming market-driver for premium trade acquisition targets. (Of course, even if Profar's new starting gig has some impact on Tampa's ability to drive up the trade value of Price, the lack of a competing front-line starter in Scherzer would more than compensate.)
Finally, with Kinsler finding a new home in a pretty unexpected place, teams that might have targeted him as a keystone option will have to look elsewhere. Of course, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Phillips still seem available by trade. So there is only the slightest silver lining here for Infante, who as Zach reported will not return to Detroit. If the Yankees bring back Robinson Cano, as expected, the market may be devoid of big-spending, win-now competitors for his services.
Ultimately, there is little question that yesterday's trade will have major ripple effects on how the puzzle pieces end up falling in place. While it is impossible to forecast with any confidence exactly what the impact will be, this deal makes for a fascinating shift of the market at the outset of the off-season.
Finally, while I will not offer any take on the merits of the deal for the two teams involved, I would like to offer some further perspective on its impact to their balance sheets. In some ways, the clubs have swapped positions in terms of future financial obligations. With $30MM reportedly set to head south over 2016-20 (presumably, in equal installments), the deal results in the following changes to the clubs' respective guaranteed contract obligations from 2015 onward (information courtesty of Cot's Baseball Contracts):
To visualize the shifts, look at these charts of the future commitments:
The Rangers and Tigers shook up their lineups and payrolls Wednesday night, as the Tigers sent slugger Prince Fielder and $30MM to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Here's my take from each team's point of view.
Kinsler, 32 in June, slipped offensively to .266/.334/.418 over the last two seasons. Is he still above average defensively at second base? A stat like UZR says no, while The Fielding Bible's defensive runs saved says yes. In fact, The Fielding Bible's panel of ten experts considers Kinsler the sixth-best defensive second baseman in the game, with half of the panel ranking him fourth or better. Out of the five players who topped Kinsler defensively, he outhit all except Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist in 2013. Kinsler might not be the player he was in his mid-20s, which is normal, but he's still close to a top ten second baseman.
Kinsler also has four years and $62MM remaining on his contract, and in a sabermetric sense, he has a decent chance of returning that much value. Wins above replacement puts a large premium on playing a position like second base decently, as it should, but I don't think the market of 29 other MLB teams viewed Kinsler as a $15.5MM player for each of the next four years. When the market undervalues your asset, the best move is to keep it, but the Rangers have Jurickson Profar. 21 in February, Profar is MLB-ready and highly regarded around the game, and the Rangers intend to slot him in as their regular second baseman. The upside is huge, but there's no guarantee he'll be as good as Kinsler over the next couple of years. He will, however, play at the league minimum.
In Kinsler, the Tigers get a second baseman to replace Omar Infante, who is currently a free agent. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated last night that Infante was as good as gone regardless of this trade, which is surprising. Even a three-year, $30MM contract for Infante would have been acceptable value, and the Tigers had that option available to them. It seems likely the Tigers' motivation in last night's trade was more about getting out from Fielder's contract than acquiring Kinsler. Fielder is signed through 2020, and with a seven-year, $168MM commitment, the fact that the Tigers had to send $30MM to the Rangers to trade him for a neutral-value asset suggests Fielder had significantly negative trade value.
If the deal was mostly about payroll flexibility, did the Tigers have better options to achieve it? Could they have signed Infante for $30MM and included $42MM to send Fielder packing for a different, cheaper player such as a quality late-inning reliever? Such a move could have afforded the Tigers over $90MM in new payroll flexibility, rather than the $76MM they added. They still would have seen the benefit of moving Miguel Cabrera across the diamond. However, trading Fielder for a reliever or something similar would have been a tough sell to fans, and even at Jayson Werth money for Fielder it's not as if the Tigers would have found a dozen suitors.
Fielder will play next year at age 30, and had a seven-year, $168MM commitment remaining. With a disappointing platform year and a draft pick cost attached, could agent Scott Boras have gotten him that contract this offseason? Add in the fact that Fielder seems much closer to a permanent DH role than he did two years ago, and I think Boras would have fallen short. It's more plausible that Fielder could have gotten $138MM over seven years, though, and the Rangers didn't have to give up a draft pick. Plus, even if they overvalue power, the free agent and trade markets didn't offer a first baseman like Fielder this offseason. Fielder's off-year was about as good as Mike Napoli's 2013 season, which might be Napoli's peak. Fielder was an elite hitter as recently as 2012, and the Rangers expect him to bounce back closer to that level in 2014.
Fielder serves as a big offensive upgrade for the Rangers at first base, though it's likely they lose offense at second base if they go with Profar. They've still got flexibility at an outfielder corner, catcher, and designated hitter to add more offense. I wonder if Brian McCann becomes less viable for them, as the oft-cited general plan to move McCann to DH around the fourth year of his contract may be hampered by the Rangers' need to put Fielder there.
I'm sure Boras will have plenty to say about this deal. He probably would suggest the Rangers righted a wrong in acquiring Fielder, since they were not able to finish a free agent deal with him two years ago (perhaps due to objections from Nolan Ryan). While the move creates more opportunity for the Tigers to do a historic pitching contract with another Boras client, Max Scherzer, I think that matters to the agent only in that he can count the Tigers as a more viable suitor once Scherzer reaches free agency after the 2014 season.
The Tigers didn't just get a talented second baseman in exchange for Prince Fielder, they got a whole lot of money (an estimated $76MM) to spend elsewhere. The question now becomes, what will they do with their new found financial flexibility? I asked Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for star pitcher Max Scherzer.
"It makes it perhaps more possible. As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call. "Does it make it probable? I can''t say that. But it makes it more possible going forward."
As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained in his conference call earlier this evening, Dombrowski said that the deal came together at lightning speed with the first serious phone call taking place Tuesday afternoon. However, it would seem that the wheels started turning for the Tigers front office earlier than that. Dombrowski said that the Rangers made it clear at the GM Meetings that they were more interested in trading Ian Kinsler than fellow second baseman Jurickson Profar and were looking for a middle-of-the-order bat.
The arrival of Kinsler and the departure of Fielder will lead to a lot of change in the Detroit infield. While Dombrowski isn't exactly sure who will go where – Miguel Cabrera, he says, isn't a lock to go to first base in 2014 – Omar Infante is almost certainly out of the picture. However, even without the trade, it sounds like Infante was destined to change uniforms anyway.
"In Infante's case, I can't say 100%, but with the acquisition of Kinsler, we're not in a position to add a second baseman … that was most likely the case before [anyway] because we were looking to go younger with Hernan Perez," said the Tigers GM.
Kinsler will man second base, but for how long? When asked if the 31-year-old can play the position for years to come, Dombrowski sounded optimistic about his ability to maintain his first step and range. He acknowledged that it could be an issue that is revisited down the line, but Kinsler figures to stay at second base for "the next couple years or maybe longer."
With the trade talks happening in less time than it takes to plan a weekend vacation, some elements were rushed. Dombrowski got the greenlight from Ilitch Wednesday afternoon and it didn't sound as though it was a lengthy conversation. Dombrowski also wanted to get the chance to chat with Fielder as the deal was being completed, but he didn't get the opportunity. Fielder is on vacation in the Bahamas and was away from his phone when Dombrowski called to let him know the trade was official. With a full voicemail inbox, the two wound up exchanging texts with Dombrowski thanking him for his time in Detroit and wishing him the best in Arlington.
If the Rangers' trade for Prince Fielder seemed to come completely out of left field for fans, that's because it did. In a conference call with reporters tonight, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said that talks didn't get into gear until Tuesday when Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski called with an ambitious idea. I asked Daniels if he envisioned a deal for Fielder or a player of his caliber coming together all along this offseason.
"We have gone through a variety of scenarios, some more realistic than others. This is something that we had touched on. We hadn't delved deeply into it until yesterday and it picked up speed from there," Daniels said.
Daniels noted that it wouldn't be possible to trade a player of Ian Kinsler's caliber for someone at another position without tremendous organizational depth, something he attributes to Texas' strong scouting department. As it stands today, Kinsler's departure will give way to Jurickson Profar as the team's full-time second baseman.
Fielder unquestionably gives the Rangers a monster bat, but some have pointed to his performance in 2013 as cause for concern. After posting a .287/.393/.538 batting line across his previous eight seasons, Fielder took a step back in 2013, posting a .279/.362/.457 slash line. Daniels took that regression into consideration, but he didn't sound terribly concerned about it.
"We looked at it quite a bit. If he was coming off the best year of his career then [he wouldn't] be available. I think that's kind of the whole idea of this deal. If anyone feels like that's a sign of things to come, that he's slipping, you may not like the deal, we don't feel that way…based on what we got from our scouts, and some of the analysis we did, we think there's a lot more to come," the GM said, while also noting that he got a fair amount of his homework done two years ago when Fielder was a free agent and a Rangers target.
When asked about what the acquisition of Fielder might mean for the future of Mitch Moreland, Daniels insisted that he is still very much a part of the club's plans. While Moreland would have value to other teams after belting a career-high 23 homers in 2013, Daniels said that he values his bat just as much. First base is no longer open for Moreland, but he can still find playing time in the outfield or at DH. "We're not giving up on the guy," Daniels said.
Daniels says that finding another bat at another position is still very much "a part of the plan" even after tonight's blockbuster. Texas showed tonight that they're willing to shake things up in order to improve and it would be a surprise if this were the last significant move that they make this winter.