Prince a Tiger: Who's the Fielder?
Well the relatively quiet Prince Fielder rumor-mill got incredibly loud yesterday before the news broke that he was heading to Motown. Prior to yesterday, it seemed like the market had quieted on Fielder. There were reports that teams had been turned off by his agent (Scott Boras), there were reports that teams were scared to go long-term with Prince and there were some suggestions that Prince may be forced to consider a one-year deal. But then, all of the sudden, the market got really hot for Fielder. It all started with a fake Jon Heyman Twitter account. Tuesday early-afternoon, a host of reputable sources were duped by a fake Jon Heyman Tweet that suggested Fielder was heading to Washington. Some outlets went as far as reporting that Fielder was in the Nation's Capital. Then, Tim Brown of Yahoo! reported that Fielder was heading to Detroit; a rumor which was confirmed by the real Jon Heyman. By that time, no one was sure what to believe... fast forward a few hours and the deal was done. Detroit had locked up Fielder for 9 years and $214 million and once again, Scott Boras emerges smelling like roses.
We reported the whisper that Detroit had emerged as a potential suitor yesterday. It should not shock anyone that the Tigers went all in for Prince. Once Victor Martinez went down, the Tigers knew that they needed to find an impact bat. There was too much at stake to remain idle. The Tigers bested the Yankees in the 2011 ALDS and were the odds on favorite to win the AL Central. Losing V-Mart was a crushing blow for a team with World Series aspirations. Without Prince, they were likely still the odds on favorite to win the AL Central in 2012 but with Prince, they have a formidable offensive tandem that matches up with anyone and vaults them back into the discussion of serious World Series contenders. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder each have the talent to carry the team themselves. With those two hitting back to back, you have two guys with .300/.400/.500 ability. They're not just home run and RBI guys, they're historic sluggers. Make no mistake, the rest of the AL is on notice - the Tigers are going for it.
The biggest question that has yet to be answered is what position will Cabrera play in 2012 and beyond? I think Fielder has to play first base, at least for the foreseeable future but the switch from every day fielder to full-time DH is not easy. Many good hitters have struggled to make that adjustment so you have to wonder whether the Tigers are willing to risk the confidence of all-world first baseman. Many people, like myself, believe that Cabrera is capable of making the switch to third base or outfield. Right now, Brandon Inge is slated as the starting third baseman on the Tigers' depth chart but the extra offensive production that they would get at the hot corner from moving Cabrera to third would more than make up for the defensive liability that he might turn out to be in the field. Miguel's bat provides 100 points over Brandon's and he's been worth 18.7 more wins (WAR) than Inge over the past five years. Let us not forget, Cabrera played shortstop his first couple seasons in the minors and broke into the big leagues as an outfielder before switching to third base and eventually, first base. The Tigers could also choose to try him into the outfield but based on comments that Miguel made in a Venezuelan newspaper (Lider en Deportes), he considers third base his "natural position." To me, that sounds like he is embracing the move.
Check out the local response at Motor City Bengals. As you could expect, they're pleasantly shocked by the move. There are a few comments questioning the move from a defensive standpoint but most of the comments are enthusiastic, which you would expect after a signing like this.