MLB Free Agency: Ranking the Winners and Losers of the Prince Fielder Deal
It was reported yesterday that Prince Fielder agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. This contract will now rank in as the fourth largest contract in baseball history, coming in behind both of Alex Rodriguez's mega-deals, and Albert Pujols' contract from this offseason.
Any time there is a contract of this nature, there are bound to be some people who benefit from it and others who are harmed by the signing.
Winner: Prince Fielder
Look for this in the upcoming season for the Tigers.
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The most obvious winner for this deal is Prince Fielder himself. This offseason provided a very slow-developing market for Fielder, as nothing really picked up until a couple of weeks ago (granted, a large part of this was due to the presence of one Albert Pujols).
It was widely reported that after Pujols signed his deal, agent Scott Boras was looking to receive a similar deal to the one Pujols received, especially in terms of years. Most reports coming in stated that Fielder wouldn't receive more than a six- or seven-year offer, until the Tigers came in on Tuesday with a nine-year deal.
This deal will pay Fielder an average of $23.78 million each season, and he also gets to wear the uniform that his father played in.
Losers: Washington Nationals
Unfortunately, the Nationals will be seeing Laroche manning first base.
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Widely rumored to be the front-runner for landing the Prince, the Washington Nationals lost out on their man once again. Fielder would have been a very nice addition to the Nationals lineup, and would have made them an even greater threat in the NL East. Let's just imagine for a second that Prince did sign with the team. This could be a potential middle of the order:
3. Ryan Zimmerman
4. Prince Fielder
5. Jayson Werth
6. Michael Morse
Add in to that equation Bryce Harper at some point in the middle or bottom next season, and that is a very threatening lineup that would cause the opposition a headache.
Now, the Nationals have to settle for Adam Laroche (and his .172 batting average from last season) manning first base*, unless they trade him away.
*Note: This is assuming that Michael Morse plays a corner outfield position.
Winner: Miguel Cabrera
Look for plenty of protection for Miggy.
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Prior to the Fielder signing, next season was not looking phenomenal for the Tigers lineup. After losing Victor Martinez for the year to an unfortunate offseason injury (torn ACL), all of a sudden there was not a whole lot of punch in the lineup besides Cabrera.
Now, the Tigers have one of the best 3-4 combinations in the game. With Miguel Cabrera batting in front of Prince Fielder, he should receive quite a bit of protection than what was originally planned—not to mention Prince can still play the field. Manager Jim Leyland can now keep both of his first basemen healthy throughout the season, by rotating who starts in the field and who starts at DH.
With these two in the heart of the lineup, the Tigers can never really be considered too far out of a game. Look for them to help lead the Tigers to the postseason once again.
Loser: Victor Martinez
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V-Mart will both love and hate the deal that Prince just signed. Obviously, signing Fielder is a great addition to the team and vastly improves their offense. The downside: There is no longer a clear spot on the roster for V-Mart.
This season won't prove that much of a difficulty for Martinez, as he will be out recovering from a torn ACL all season. However, when he comes back for the 2013 season, things could get a little dicey. Last season, V-Mart played the vast majority of his games as the DH for the Tigers. Now, the plan is to use either Miggy or Prince in the DH slot, with the other starting at 1B.
With both the emergence of Alex Avila at catcher and the injury that Martinez suffered, it is unlikely that he will see a lot of time at catcher in the 2013 season. Deteriorating knees is always a concern for catchers, so for V-Mart to get back behind the plate after tearing his ACL is unlikely.
Unless he learns a new position (third base? LF/RF?) or Miggy returns to third base (early reports indicate that is a possibility), there is no clear position for Victor Martinez in 2013.
Winner: Joey Votto
Votto could be poised for a mega-deal when he reaches free agency.
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While Votto's current contract is through 2013, the deals signed by Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have provided Votto with plenty of leverage to sign his own large contract.
Votto has been a rising star in the National League, and has already won an MVP award. After the 2013 season, Votto will be entering the market as a 30-year-old. While he will be three years older than Prince at the time of signing, Votto's size and athleticism should be enough to convince teams to throw the dollars at him.
Losers: Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui and Raul Ibanez
Don't expect to see this in the upcoming season.
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Reports were floating around the internet that Johnny Damon expressed interest in returning to the Tigers for another season. Had he signed a contract, he would have filled the DH slot. Well, now that Prince has signed, there is no more spot on the roster for Damon.
The same applies for Vlad, Matsui and Ibanez. All four of these gentlemen just lost another potential suitor of their services. It will be difficult for them to find a team to play for unless they are willing to take a large pay cut.
Winners: Detroit Tigers
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The Tigers offense certainly looks a lot more scary now that they have added a Prince. A week ago, it was not looking bright for the club, as they lost one of their top bats in V-Mart. Having Miggy and Prince batting back-to-back will not only be entertaining, but will be one of the best 3-4 combos we have seen in baseball in a long time.
Provided their pitching can hold up, look for this team to return to the playoffs once again.