Prince Fielder Trade: 4 Reasons Why the Tigers Are Now Better

Ben RosenerCorrespondent IIINovember 21, 2013

Prince Fielder Trade: 4 Reasons Why the Tigers Are Now Better

0 of 4

    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    In shocking news, Prince Fielder is no longer a Detroit Tiger. Ian Kinsler is.

    It’s not that surprising that Kinsler is in Motown. After all, the Tigers needed a second baseman. What’s shocking is that Fielder is gone. At first there was a lot to hate about the trade. Miguel Cabrera will no longer have the same protection he had in his two MVP seasons. His intentional walk numbers are going to be astronomical; the team’s offense is going to struggle compared to last season’s.

    Then, the reasons for trading Fielder became clear. Here are four ways it improves the Tigers.

     

    All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Defense

1 of 4

    Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    Because of Miguel Cabrera’s statistically poor defense at third, people tend to forget about the underwhelming defense of Fielder. Fielder’s runs saved above average was -13.

    The acquisition of Kinsler allows the Tigers to do some shifting around the diamond.

    They could move Cabrera to first base with Victor Martinez staying at designated hitter, or take Cabrera off the field and put him at designated hitter with V-Mart manning first base. Neither Cabrera nor Martinez are particularly amazing defensively at first, but in a nutshell, the Tigers replace two bad fielders (Cabrera and Fielder) with one, Cabrera. That alone should help the team immensely.

    Also lost in the shuffle is the fact that Ian Kinsler is actually a plus defensive second baseman. Last year, his runs saved above average was +11, a 24-run difference from Fielder’s.

    Kinsler might be the best all-around second baseman not named Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano. And the Tigers just acquired him.

Money

2 of 4

    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.com says the Tigers will save $76 million in future salary in the trade.  

    Seventy-six million dollars!

    This money helps the Tigers in numerous areas.

    First, they get extreme long-term salary relief, mainly so they can throw money at Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera and Doug Fister internally. Or, at the very least, they know they have more long-term flexibility to make the kind of contract offers that the three players will expect.

    The money will also help the Tigers in the short term. Acquiring Kinsler fills a need at second, but there are other needs they need to address.

    Sliding Cabrera to first base means that they can shift super-prospect Nick Castellanos to third base, which is his natural position. The downside to this is that it opens up a hole in left field, where Castellanos was projected to play full time.

    Detroit can spend some of its newfound cash on a corner outfielder. The team could throw another Fielder-like contract at Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, which could have fantastic short-term implications but horrendous long-term ones. This seems unlikely, seeing as the team was willing to eat $30 million just to move on from a declining Fielder and his contract.

    What’s more likely is the Tigers giving a veteran, like old friend Curtis Granderson, or Carlos Beltran, a contract similar to the one they gave Torii Hunter. This would fill the hole in the short term while also giving the team that same long-term flexibility in terms of salary obligations.

    Refusing to splurge on Choo or Ellsbury and signing a cheaper option like Granderson would give Dave Dombrowski the flexibility to go after a much-needed closer. Joe Nathan is the talk of the town in terms of rumored Tigers’ targets and would be the perfect fit.

    Hunter is reportedly already trying to recruit Nathan.

    The team could also spend some of the money to address the rest of its bullpen.

Playoffs

3 of 4

    Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    Playoffs?

    Yes, playoffs.

    Everyone will remember Prince Fielder’s horrendous playoff performances for Detroit. Throughout his postseason career in Motown, Fielder was hardly sufficient lineup protection for Miguel Cabrera.

    Here are his numbers during each series:

    • 2012 ALDS vs. Oakland: .190 batting average, one home run, two runs batted in over 21 at-bats
    • 2012 ALCS vs. New York: .235 batting average, zero homeruns, one run batted in over 17 at-bats
    • 2012 World Series vs. San Francisco: .071 batting average, zero home runs, zero runs batted in over 14 at-bats
    • 2013 ALDS vs. Oakland: .278 batting average, zero home runs, zero runs batted in over 18 at-bats
    • 2013 ALCS vs. Boston: .182 batting average, zero home runs, zero runs batted in over 22 at-bats

    Removing that lack of production from the lineup would be a massive coup for Brad Ausmus’ club come October. An added plus is the addition of Ian Kinsler.

    Kinsler has loads of postseason experience thanks to his career in Texas. In 34 career postseason games, Kinsler has a .311 batting average, 11 extra-base hits, 20 runs driven in and 23 walks with only 16 strikeouts. Safe to say the dude can rake.

    Just for comparison’s sake, here are Fielder's playoff stats: 39 games played, .194 batting average, 10 extra-base hits, 11 runs driven in, 14 walks and 32 strikeouts.  

    Kinsler also has six postseason steals compared to Fielder’s zero.

    Point Kinsler.

Lineup Extension

4 of 4

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Detroit’s lineup went through change last year. If the team didn’t change, this is what it probably would have looked like (assuming the team re-signed Omar Infante):

    1. CF Austin Jackson
    2. RF Torii Hunter
    3. 3B Miguel Cabrera
    4. 1B Prince Fielder
    5. DH Victor Martinez
    6. LF Nick Castellanos
    7. 2B Omar Infante
    8. C Alex Avila
    9. SS Jose Iglesias

    At first, subtracting Fielder from that group and replacing him with Kinsler seems like a hindrance. After all, Detroit is replacing a middle-of-the-order bat with more of a top-of-the-lineup hitter. But taking Fielder out of the equation makes the lineup much deeper. Suppose the Tigers sign someone like Curtis Granderson or Carlos Beltran (as mentioned) to fill the last corner outfield spot. All of a sudden, the current lineup looks much better:

    1. 2B Ian Kinsler
    2. LF Torii Hunter
    3. 1B Miguel Cabrera
    4. DH Victor Martinez
    5. RF Carlos Beltran/veteran, slugging corner outfielder
    6. 3B Nick Castellanos
    7. C Alex Avila
    8. CF Austin Jackson
    9. SS Jose Iglesias

    Last year’s lineup was somewhat top heavy. Next year’s group could be equally balanced and dangerous. If anyone has doubts about V-Mart hitting cleanup, remember that he was lethal in the playoffs last season. He hit .450 in the ALDS and followed it up with an equally robust .364 batting average in the ALCS. Martinez probably isn’t going to hit .450 or .364 next year, but I wouldn’t put .335 past him.

    There is also the fact that Austin Jackson experienced a mini career renaissance during the tail end of the ALCS. After striking out in every game of the playoffs to that point, Jackson went 6-for-9 with three walks and zero strikeouts after Jim Leyland moved him to eighth in the lineup. In those three games, he totaled six hits. In the previous eight playoff games, he had three hits. The bottom of the lineup agrees with Austin Jackson.