Fielder, Kinsler Involved In Blockbuster Trade

This evening, Jon Heyman broke the story that the Detroit Tigers are on the verge of sending Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. We don’t have all of the details yet, so there could be more to it, but at the very least, it is a very, very interesting trade. Dave Cameron will have more on this later, but let’s take a brief look now, shall we?

First and foremost in this trade is the money that will change hands. Fielder is still owed $168 million a contract that runs through the 2020 season. Kinsler isn’t exactly cheap himself, as he is owed $57 million on a deal that runs through 2017, with a $10 million club option or $5 million buyout for 2018. Or, in other words, $62 million. That $106 million gap is pretty significant, and if it turns out that the Tigers aren’t covering a great deal of that gap, then it will be a pretty big win for them. But we don’t know that particular detail just yet. Heyman’s report also said there may be other players involved, so we’ll have to stay tuned on the final outcome.

We can, however, theorize about how this affects both teams heading into next season. For Texas, the big thing is that they solved their middle infield logjam. One of Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar or Kinsler were going to have to be traded or moved to another position. I advocated last year for moving Kinsler to first base and making Nelson Cruz the designated hitter. That didn’t happen, but you could see a scenario this offseason where Kinsler was going to have to move to right field or first base. With him out of the picture, Rangers manager Ron Washington is spared from forcing Kinsler to play a position that he seemingly did not want to play. Profar can now get as many plate appearances as possible at a valuable middle infield position, and that is great news. That could end up being an epic double-play combo, and the fact that they won’t be broken up should be exciting for baseball fans. From a handedness standpoint, Fielder will also help, as in Geovany Soto, Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios and Craig Gentry, the Rangers leaned a lot to the right.

There is also the little matter of how well Fielder will do in Arlington. His OPS there is higher than his career OPS, but the sample is too small to be indicative of much at all. And Arlington only played four percent better than did Comerica this year, so this isn’t a massive shift in park factors — if park factors can indeed be trusted as a method of evaluation in this case. The Rangers had certainly better hope that he can produce like he has in his better years. The question of course, is are his better years behind him? In two of the past four seasons, he has failed to be a three-win player. The effect on the team’s defense will be interesting as well. Beltre and Andrus are two of the better glovemen in the game, and Profar carries the same reputation. They will have to make sure that their throws are crisp though, since Fielder has next-to-no-range.

While Fielder and Profar will simply slide into preordained slots, there may be some rejiggering of Detroit’s defense. It is obviously too early to say this for sure, but Miguel Cabrera may shift back to first base. That would be a big win for the Tigers, as whether Nick Castellanos replaces Cabrera at third, or they sign someone externally to man the spot (like, say, Jhonny Peralta) whoever it is will likely be better defensively. The defense will be better overall with that move, and it could be more depending on which defensive metric you trust most. Last season, UZR did not love Kinsler, but DRS did. The opposite was true of Infante, to a degree. In the end, we can safely call that a lateral move for the Tigers, with maybe a point or two for Kinsler simply because he is younger.

Summing up, this deal would seem to hinge on the pace of decline for each of these players. Both have seemingly already played their best seasons — Fielder in 2009, and Kinsler in 2011. Since 2011, Kinsler has been basically league average both offensively and defensively, but the bar for league average is high for a second baseman, and with the dearth of quality keystoners in the game, he is most certainly still an asset — assuming he doesn’t continue to decline. After a horrid 2010, Fielder rebounded with two straight seasons of nearly five WAR. He fell off dramatically last season, and then wasn’t all that great in the postseason to boot. Should he shake off the rust his power could be a boon for a team that was decidedly middle of the pack in that department last season. But that’s a big gamble for Texas to make — especially if the money in this deal doesn’t wash.

UPDATE: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo!, the Rangers will receive $30 million from the Tigers in the deal. That balances the scales quite a bit. It makes Fielder’s AAV less than $20 million, and makes Kinsler’s $23 million for the Tigers. If you use a generous $/WAR of say, $8 million, then Kinsler is sure to be a value. A more traditional figure would make it a bit harder for the Tigers to get value out of Kinsler, although now they are also on the hook for three fewer seasons as compared to Fielder’s deal.




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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for the Boston Globe. He has also written extensively for ESPN MLB Insider. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


87 Responses to “Fielder, Kinsler Involved In Blockbuster Trade”

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  1. Colin says:

    Did I just read a fangraphs chat that suggested Texas wouldn’t do Fielder and Scherzer for Kinsler? I think I did.

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  2. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    My gut instinct is, great trade for both teams.

    TEX can keep Andrus at SS and Profar at 2B, plus replace Mitch Moreland with the world’s top-slugging vegan nacho thief.
    DET can slide Cabrera back to 1B, replace him with a real 3B waiting in the wings, and have Kinsler in between. Plus, they can keep Scherzer on the savings.

    Great, great deal. Also, it says a lot about how much defense and budget flexibility are valued these days that Ian Kinsler is perceived as being roughly equal in value to Prince Fielder.

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    • Sam says:

      Unless the Tigers are chipping in BIG money or Castellanos+, this is a steal for the Tigers. A declining Fielder who is strictly a 1B (or preferably DH) owed $160 million for a player who isn’t much worse and is owed only $60 million? I’m very, very curious as the financial and/or prospect details.

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        I hear that there is money going back to Texas, but I’m not sure how much. Fielder can DH, and at least for the next few years, the Rangers up the middle (Andrus, Profar, Martin) are big savings on now-departed players like Hamilton, Kinsler, Young, and Cruz.

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      • Kevin says:

        Tigers cough up 30 mill.

        This goes from a route for Detroit to just a mere victory.

        Seems for the moment no additional prospects/players, a straight up deal.

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    • Alexander Nevermind says:

      Prince tried a vegetarian diet for a couple of months several years ago. How do the lies about his diet have such legs?

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    • Fatty says:

      FACT: Prince Fielder is fat.

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      • Balthazar says:

        Agreed. And regardless of his tonnage, Fielder is not a fielder. Prince isn’t a firstbase man, he’s a firstbase object. Getting him moved to DH is in everyone’s best interests—and he’d have been there already except Victor Martinez is an even more grievous defender.

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        • The Party Bird says:

          VMart isn’t a worse defender at first by any stretch – I’m not sure where you’re getting that idea. The reason why the Tigers don’t play him there is that he is made of balsa.

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    • Balthazar says:

      Agreed on this for Detroit as an outstanding deal. They got two years from the Prince as good as there were to get while they were contending for the Series, then—amazingly—dumped his massively long and expensive decline years on [anybody]. Paying $30 million to achieve that is a cost savings by itself. Instead, Detroit acquired a quality veteran 2bman while the team is still in contention at going-rate money. Detroit gets huge positional flexibility, all but surely moving Miggy to 1b and keeping Martinez at DH, allowing them to get younger overall, better defensively, and gaining payroll flexibility, likely for their pitching staff which has turned into their strength. Easily one of the best ten trades of the last ten years as far as overall impact on the a 25 man roster.

      As for Texas . . . we’ll see. They got positional flexibility to play their prime prospect, and that matters. They got ‘a bat’ which will likely be at DH, and that matters some (and a lot to them, evidently). We can bet this means Texas has waved bye-bye to Nelson Cruz, too, which with letting Hamilton go also will prove very much the right move. Texas is goint to pay _a lot_ of $$$$ for that opportunity-gain, and likely have some ugly years out of Fielder down the road (when the money is some per cent cheaper, be it said). I can’t really see this as a ‘win’ for the Rangers, but at least they have the near term opportunity-gains which evidently were their priority.

      A good concept of a trade, too. Teams are seldom willing to move their ‘marketing value players’—which is amongst the largest mistakes in roster construction in this day and age, to me. It’s who you get and how the pieces fit which really matters, but most hold onto declining hands and bad mixes hoping to get lucky . . . which they seldom do.

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      • mr33 says:

        That’s a pretty positive spin on Prince’s tenure in Detroit. Those two years of Prince’s best cost them $76M for 7 WAR.

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      • MrMan says:

        Those two seasons cost the Tigers $75M…..pretty damn expensive.

        I view this as a win-win. The Tigers had too may 1B / DH types and were deficient in IF defense and base-running. Rangers had too many middle IFers and were deficient in power-hitting 1B / DH types.

        Rangers will pay Fielder $4M more per year than Kinsler over next 5 years. That seems like a good deal. After that, it’s probably not such a good deal.

        Don’t think this is nearly the slam-dunk Detroit win as many are proclaiming it.

        Seems like on Fangrapsh….every free-agent signing is an overpay and every contract pickup is dumb. As I recall, this site panned the Victorino signing last year, but I’m pretty sure Boston fans don’t have a problem with it at all.

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  3. Lenard says:

    Fielder could DH still in Texas and they could field a better defensive 1st baseman, whether it’s still Moreland, who has consistently been positive per UZR, or somebody else.

    Unloading Fielder’s contract could be the first step towards a massive extension for Miggy too.

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  4. With 1b open for Det, don’t forget Victor Martinez. Martinez was pretty good last year, esp. in the 2nd half- he did miss all of 2012. If they move him to 1st, that frees up the DH spot to be rotated around. Not saying I’d do that instead of moving Cabrera to 1st, but it’s great to have options.

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  5. Colin says:

    They need to start training Castellanos for 3b immediately. He wasn’t that great at it before they moved him off the position. Better get him a defensive coach and have him start doing drills tomorrow morning.

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    • Kevin says:

      He doesn’t need to be great. He simply has to be “Not Miggy defensively”

      Then just hit .260 as a rookie and go from there.

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      • Colin says:

        Miggy still put up ridiculous value at 3b even with his bad defense. Not to mention he was -15 there this year playing almost two months injured. He was close to but not as bad the year before. It actually isn’t much of a stretch to imagine someone with no training in years and who was not that great before he left the position to be that bad defensively?

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      • Colin says:

        To add: He was -8 the year before when he was uninjured for two months. There is actually a fairly decent chance IMO Castellanos could be that bad, because that is not an absurdly terrible level, just sufficiently below average.

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        • Spa City says:

          I agree with Colin. Cabrera clearly was not an effective defensive 3rd baseman, but he was not Bobby Bonilla bad. I see no reason to anticipate Castellanos will be appreciably better. It might be better for the Tigers to keep Castellanos in the OF and look for a quality defensive third-baseman (Stephen Drew or Peralta).

          Alternatively, the Tigers could move Kinsler to 3B and sign Robinson Cano.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Miggy, defensively speaking, has actually been worth more at 3B defensively than 1B when you use FanGraphs positional adjustments, since he is not good enough at 1B to offset the adjustment difference.

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  6. Spa City says:

    This deal makes sense. The Tigers had three 1B/DHs and the Rangers had three middle infielders. The $30 million seems just about right.

    But my lasting memory of Prince Fielder will always be in a Tigers uniform – flopping back hopelessly toward third base and coming up short.

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  7. Slats says:

    The Detroit Tigers have been shopping Prince Fielder.

    They could make a fortune if they sold him by the pound.

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  8. Max Grady says:

    This is a great deal for Detroit. Their defense will be substantially upgraded by whoever mans 3B, and they shed that giant contract that Fielder’s WAR could never justify, as the big man continues his gradual, long-term decline into his 30s. As a result, they also have more flexibility to re-sign Scherzer.

    Fielder will hit more HRs in Texas, but that contract is a major risk for a team to gamble on. How many 280 lb. ballplayers excelled in their age 29-36 seasons? I’m guessing not many. That’s 7 years of possibly 300 lbs. of declining bat speed manning first base. I realize the Rangers wanted to clear the path for Jurickson Profar, but there are better ways to do it than this.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      How many 280 lb baseball players have there been? I’m guessing not many.

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      • Max Grady says:

        Jose Ceda, Seth McClung, Carlos Silva, Renyel Pinto, Luis Jimenez, are a few 280 lb. names that come to mind. Of that small group, only Silva made it into his 30s, and he was out of baseball by age 31 (and I’m sure there are plenty of other fatsos but these are just what I found quickly; maybe someone with more time on their hands can look into this further and create a more meaningful sample size to draw conclusions from). No Bartolo Colon, you say? I didn’t include him because his PED use makes this gloriously small sample all the more difficult to interpret. And the Big Hurt? At 275 lbs., he just missed my 280 lb. cut. My basic point is that there has not been many 280+ lb. baseballers that have enjoyed great careers in their 30s, and Fielder does turn 30 in May, although the idiots at ESPN evaluating this trade say, “He’s still only 29 and in his prime!” His prime was actually 5 years ago.

        Cecil Fielder, Prince’s dad, had his last productive season at age 32 (was 33 at end of season), and he actually weighed a good 30-40 lbs. less than Prince. I will say that it is remarkable how incredibly durable Prince has been up to this point, but it would be biologically unrealistic to expect his ironmanesque history to continue well into his 30s. If he gets injured even one time, it will be very hard for him to rehabilitate with all that weight.

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  9. Brandon says:

    And Arlington only played four percent better than did Comerica this year, so this isn’t a massive shift in park factors

    Yes, but look at park factors by handedness and you’ll see that Prince will have a much bigger advantage in Arlington as a lefty.

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    • MrMan says:

      Agreed. And RBiA had a surprise down year offensively in 2013. Some blame it on the installation of a closed in concourse that removed the CF-RF “jetstream”…..but meteorologists claim it was a freak year in terms of wind, with very unusual wind directions throughout most of the summer.

      This is not trivial. Without the jetstream RBiA was barely above league average in offense….after consistently ranking as one of the most offensive ballparks in MLB for the prior 15 years.

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  10. Canard says:

    Trade looks like a slight win for Texas to me. Getting that much money out of Detroit? Wow. Then consider how much $/WAR is going to go up this off-season with all of that new TV money being thrown around, and suddenly Prince has a pretty good chance of out-performing that contract for the next few years. Add in that Texas needed room for Profar, and that’s a good deal for them right there.

    Of course Detroit getting to move Miggy to 3rd and make room for Castellanos is a win for them as well. But I think Texas wins slightly more.

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    • Colin says:

      Didn’t think people would say win for Texas. Seems like no way Cameron will say that considering he just suggested that Texas would not do something largely similar (Prince plus Scherzer for Kinsler). All in all I’m surprised to see that. With 30 million going to Texas I think it is close to a wash. Might be the proverbial ‘win-win’.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      Basically the 30M subsidizes the last year of Princes deal and 6M of the 6th yr also, so it’s 5 yrs at 24M plus a 6th yr at 18M I believe. That won’t be awful as long as he doesn’t gt any worse than he was this year. Playing half his games in Arlington will help achieve that. And clearly the Rangers wanted to find a taker for Kinsler. Not sure what they’d’ve gotten elsewhere.

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    • Shauntell says:

      Texas is still going to have to pay 20M a year for Fielder, which means he has to be a 3-4 WAR guy the next 7 years which is not a given especially since he’s producing that value solely with his bat. Unless he becomes Ortiz that is…

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      • Canard says:

        At the $8 million / WAR figure listed above, Fielder only has to hit 3 WAR per year. Divide the $30 million among the years remaining in Fielder’s deal, and suddenly that drops to 2 to 2.5 WAR per year.

        You’re telling me Prince Fielder couldn’t average 2 to 2.5 WAR per year in Arlington until he turns 36?

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  11. Detroit Boy says:

    I’m not one of those Tiger fans who ripped on Fielder. I understand slumps, and I also understand that rough real-life patches can’t help but spill over onto the baseball field, especially when games are played every single day.

    That said, every Tiger fan knew that this Fielder contract was never going to look good in the last few years of the deal, but we were willing to make that concession for a potential World Series run. I wish Prince well, and hope he tears it up in Arlington, but I’m pretty positive about this deal.

    Kinsler, even at 31, has a better mix of skills for what this team needs – he runs well, he walks at a good rate (and more than he strikes out), he has gap power that will play fabulously in Comerica, and he’s a plus bat at a defensive position who can field well.

    THis won’t be the last move. But if it is, Miggy moves to first, Castellanos likely comes north as a third baseman, Max probably gets re-signed, and the team is in better shape over the next couple years.

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  12. LaLoosh says:

    People severely underestimate Dombroski’s effectiveness in Detroit. All we kept hearing is that Prince was unmovable tho maybe that was about him personally. Never mind.

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  13. Grammar Police says:

    “The question of course, is are his better years behind him?”

    The comma should be after is, not before it.

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  14. Colin says:

    My lasting memories of Prince Fielder…
    1. The belly flop, both literally and figuratively, in the 2013 post season
    2. The disdain I had the day he signed his contract
    3. This quote in response to being knocked out of the playoffs, “It’s not really tough, man. It’s over,” Fielder said in the clubhouse after a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the ALCS. “I got kids I got to take care of, I got things I got to take care of. It’s over.”

    See you later, don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

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    • Jason says:

      Thank you. Too many posters on FanGraphs assume that Prince will recover his Milwaukee value in Texas. I highly doubt it. This is a steal for Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers.

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  15. Philly says:

    I have Prince Fielder in one dynasty league and Ian Kinsler in another dynasty league.

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  16. Rubén Amaro Jr. says:

    After hearing Detroit has moved Prince Fielder and his big contract, I have decided to extend Ryan Howard for another five seasons.

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  17. Joe R says:

    I think this is a good trade for both teams, to get out of bad contracts that make no sense for their roster.

    I mean, I still think both players are overpaid for their respective performance expectation, but the tigers had a log jam of no glove mashers, while the rangers had one of middle infielders. At least their new parts are more practical for the roster constructs.

    I think Detroit got the better end, but it does make enough sense for Texas.

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  18. Dan Greer says:

    Prince is dropping his no-trade clause to get the hell away from his money-grubbing deadbeat of a father.

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  19. james wilson says:

    It seems simpler to deal away Kinsler and take whatever loss is due, and then deal with your other issues separately. They must have a lot of confidence that Fielder can rebound.

    I think it is very likely he will add 15 pounds a year. People that fat are never too fat. This guy has a major health issue. Maybe they are counting on him expiring before his contract does.

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  20. JuanPierreDoesSteroids says:

    With the extra money kicked in, this looks good for the Rangers for the next 4 years. They turned their logjam in the middle infield and Mitch Moreland into Profar and Fielder and they only added 4 million dollars per year (I think, the numbers are confusing me now) for the next 4 years.

    After that, though… YIKES! Long term, I think this looks alot better for Detroit.

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    • Charlu19 says:

      It really depends on how the Rangers want to budget that $30 million. With the Rangers’ new television deal that kicks in after next season, they are gaining $60 million more a year from the fine folks at Fox Sports. That would allow the Rangers to operate in the $150-160 million range that can accommodate a bad contract for a couple years. My hope is that they treat it like the Tigers buying out the last 1.25 years of the contract.

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  21. JS7 says:

    Stat cornier has Comerica friendlier to lefties than Arlington.

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  22. Charlu19 says:

    Although I love the sabermetric side of baseball, sometimes we forget about character and how a guy meshes in the clubhouse. Watching Rangers Baseball daily, I’ve become annoyed with Ian Kinsler and that is a popular sentiment among Ranger fans. He got too comfortable here and thought he was some sort of irreplaceable legend. He refused to move positions, refused to leave the leadoff spot, and publicly backed Michael Young in the face of Jon Daniels. He was also the chaperone for Josh Hamiton’s ill-fated night. I think that he might have become more of a distraction in the clubhouse than a leader. I think JD was ready for him to go and he landed a LH power bat in the process of doing so. I think that this was a win for JD and the Rangers front office.

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    • MrMan says:

      Wow.

      Seriously don’t know where to start with this.

      As a longtime Rangers fan…..I completely disagree with your description of Ian Kinsler. What evidence is there that he considered himself an “irreplaceable legend”? That is nothing more than your conjecture.

      As is your assertion that he refused to leave the leadoff spot. And how his presence at Josh Hamilton’s ill-fated night is a negative is beyond me.

      Kinsler was a highly productive player whom many “casual” fans failed to value. I think his productivity recently has declined and is likely to decline so I understand the decision to move him.

      But to claim he was a “distraction” and anything other than a positive presence in the clubhouse is 100% pure speculation and…really, just rumor-mongering by you.

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  23. Drew says:

    What was horrid about Fielder’s 2010?

    It appears to have been a solid year, just not an All-Star caliber one.

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  24. Ruki Motomiya says:

    The Rangers basically are hoping the unproven but much hyped Profar does really good early in his career, which is pretty risky. But if things turn out well with Profar, they’ll win.

    If things don’t turn out well with Profar, they’ll have traded Kinsler for a slightly worse player, though Kinsler has been worryingly in decline but Prince is coming off a sloppy year and is on a two year power decline, who is a bit older, and taken on some more salary. I’d say this is a win for the Tigers with a chance to be a big win for the Rangers if Profar comes out firin’, even for 3-ish WAR and a chance to be a big negative if Profar struggles.

    (Also: Miggy won’t move off 3B unless injury concerns force him too, as he is more valuable defensively there than 1B or DH when factoring in positional adjustment, see the fact that even playing hurt this year he put up better defensive numbers than 3 of his last 4 years at 1B)

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Actually, my bad, it’s Prince that is younger than Kinsler: I read their birthdays backwards when looking at the stats, heh.

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  25. Fandagan says:

    This trade is headline gold.
    “A Whole Lotta Green: Rangers Acquire Vegetarian Fielder And His Massive Contract”
    “Shedding Weight: Detroit Ships Costly Prince South To Keep Scherzer”
    “Going With Their Gut: Texas Gets Bigger with Surprising Blockbuster to Acquire Crown Prince”
    “Tigers Bite Off More Prince Than They Can Chew, Swap Fat Bat for Actual (In)Fielder”
    “Tigers Chew the Fat, Eat Prince’s Contract In Lopsided Trade with Rangers”
    “Curiosity Costs the Cat: Tigers Part Ways with Slugging Son of Franchise Legend to Replace Departing Infant(e)”

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