If the Detroit Tigers were not already a serious contender to win the World Series, they certainly are now. According to numerous reports the Tigers have added coveted free-agent slugger Prince Fielder to their roster. Sources indicate that Fielder and the Tigers have agreed in principle on a nine-year, $214 million deal.
Fielder hit for a .299 average, 38 home runs and 120 RBI in 2011.
There is a slight problem with the deal though. The Tigers already have a first baseman. The Tigers' current first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, hit for a .344 average, with 30 home runs and 105 RBI in 2011. If not for teammate Justin Verlander, Cabrera would have won the AL MVP award hands down.
The team will likely use Cabrera at the DH spot and put Fielder at first in 2012. Cabrera could also play some games at third base, but he is certainly not known for his glove.
So what are Detroit's title chances now?
Detroit won 95 games and made it to the ALCS in 2011, where they fell to the Texas Rangers in six games. Now, throw Fielder into the lineup, and the team is once again one of the favorites to win the American League if not the World Series.
The reason Detroit is not the sole favorite though, is because of the loss of catcher Victor Martinez. Martinez is lost for the entire 2012 season due to an ACL tear. Sure, Fielder is definitely a better bat than Martinez, but the Tigers are still losing one of the key players to their team from last year. Martinez hit for a .330 average last year, with 12 home runs and 103 RBI. His contribution to Detroit was, needless to say, gigantic.
Who is the American League favorite in 2012?
The middle of the Detroit order will easily be one of the most feared in baseball. Cabrera and Fielder will likely once again put up huge numbers this season. Verlander is one of the top aces in baseball, and leads the Tigers rotation. The Tigers also have an outstanding closer named Jose Valverde. Valverde was 49-for-49 in save opportunities last year, and locked down the back end of the Detroit bullpen.
The key for Detroit to make a strong World Series run is to get a strong contribution from their surrounding cast of players. Players like Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Max Scherzer will need to have solid seasons for Detroit.
Detroit looks great on paper right now, but we will have to wait until Opening Day to see how they stack up with the rest of the American League powerhouses on the field.