In a move that surprised many Tuesday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers signed power slugger Prince Fielder to an eye-popping 9-year, $214 million contract that will bring the oversized lefty to Motown for the foreseeable future.
After news of a season-ending injury to Victor Martinez last week, the Tigers’ 2012 season looked to be heading in the wrong direction right off the bat, but with this acquisition they have more than made up for the loss of V-Mart.
In a lineup that was already chock full of solid hitters, Fielder adds a much-needed left-handed power presence in the middle of the lineup, making pitching through the middle of the Detroit lineup a nightmarish feat for opposing pitchers.
Here’s how the Tigers’ lineup could look come the start of 2012:
1.) Austin Jackson – CF
2.) Brennan Boesch – DH
3.) Miguel Cabrera – 3B
4.) Prince Fielder – 1B
5.) Delmon Young – LF
6.) Jhonny Peralta – SS
7.) Alex Avila – C
8.) Ryan Raburn – RF
9.) Ramon Santiago – 2B
Many of those fielding locations and lineup placements will undoubtedly be tinkered with to no end by coach Jim Leyland, a notorious lineup jumbler, but the combination of players 1-7 alone is enough to strike fear into the heart of even the most formidable pitching rotations.
The most notable item will be the repositioning of Miguel Cabrera to third base, with Fielder taking over at first.
The ex-Brewer will likely want to do more than just fill the designated hitter role for the Tigers, and Cabrera has played third base in the past, including his time with the Florida Marlins before coming to Detroit.
The Tigers' front office has disclosed that Cabrera was approached with this proposal before the move was finalized, and he was willing to make the change for the good of the team.
The ability to now place Cabrera and Fielder back-to-back in the lineup will largely stymie the popular intentional walk approach used on both batters, as there will be little to no advantage to facing one rather than the other.
This means that both players will probably see more hittable pitches than they are accustomed to, meaning the Tigers’ offensive numbers could balloon to new extremes.
With the addition of Fielder, there is now a legitimate argument that this group is the most dangerous lineup in baseball, and when Victor Martinez rejoins the squad in 2013 it will be hard to argue against that belief.
A team that already ranked in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 2011 now adds one of the league’s premier power hitters with Fielder, who has hit the second most home runs in the MLB over the past two seasons behind only Albert Pujols.
Combined with one of the top pitching rotations in the league, which includes reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the Tigers appear to have a real shot at a World Series crown after dancing around the edges of the elite for the past few seasons, and may have, in fact, just become the preseason favorite.
After the trade became official the Tigers' World Series odds in Las Vegas went to 9-1, which currently has them even with the Texas Rangers with the highest betting odds for winning it all next season.
Knowing all of this, the dedicated Detroit fanbase will surely continue flocking to Comerica Park come the start of the 2012 season, even if they do have to pay a couple extra bucks per beer to chip into the Fielder fund.
If things go as planned, then every cent spent on Fielder will surely be worth it for the organization and the fanbase.
If not, then at the very least, the Tigers should be able to put together some truly exciting offensive performances in their run at an AL, and ultimately, MLB crown in 2012 and beyond.