JULY 27: Fielder will undergo surgery to repair a C4/C5 herniation on Friday, according to an announcement from Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake (Twitter link).
JULY 25: The Rangers expect that first baseman Prince Fielder will undergo neck surgery later this week, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. There had been some hope that the veteran slugger could avoid a procedure after his recent diagnosis of a herniated disk, but it seems that Fielder is destined to go under the knife.
Details remain unknown, but it seems all but certain that Fielder will miss the remainder of the season. It won’t be the first trip through the process for the veteran, who also ended the 2014 campaign after a neck operation. He bounced back quite well last year, but has never gotten things going in 2016.
The loss of Fielder doesn’t feel terribly consequential, somewhat surprisingly, because he has struggled so badly this year. Despite never finishing a season at anything worse than an approximately league-average batting line, he has limped to a .212/.292/.334 slash. That’s nearly as far off of the league mean (65 OPS+) as Fielder was above it last season (126 OPS+). And it’s a far sight from his peak, when he was one of the better hitters in baseball.
The Rangers will have several alternatives for the immediate future, including expanding the role of youngster Jurickson Profar and, perhaps, eventually giving minor league slugger Joey Gallo a full shot in the majors. But there’s also certainly a chance that the club will look to add a hitter from outside the organization over the next week.
In the longer term, it’s not clear how much value Texas can hope to receive out of Fielder’s monster contract. He’s on the books for $18MM annually for the next four campaigns, even after the team that signed him (the Tigers) kicks in its $6MM per year. It hurts even more to see Ian Kinsler — the player for whom Fielder was dealt in a big-contract swap — putting up one of his best seasons as a big leaguer this year in Detroit.