Tim Brown and some other dudes first reported the Tigers signing Prince Fielder to a NINE-YEAR CONTRACT worth a reported $214 million bucks. Which reminds me of this line I threw in to that piece earlier today:
A smart move until, when his deal in finalized and publicized, we all realize none of the trickery and misdirection prevented the former Brewers first baseman from signing a multi-year deal worth nearly $200 million dollars.
Let there be no doubt: Scot Boras knows the market and will not settle for any less that every last cent it will bear. That Prince gets nine years and $214 million bucks isn’t really that shocking a number, really. Shocking though is…well this:
Wow. Prince gets just $32 million less than Pujols, and hits free agency again at 36.
— Sam Miller (@SamMillerOCR) January 24, 2012
Any and all one-year or three-year pipe dreams were just that: dreams. Fantastical fever dreams completely divorced from reality. As Sam points out, Prince gets a massive contract with a chance to get another final pay day, provided he’s still viable as a player at the end of the deal.
Back to reality, more specifically the new American League reality. Turns out the Detroit Tigers are going to score a bunch of runs! With Victor Martinez out for months with a knee injury, the Tigers did a pretty exceptional job of securing excellent backup.
prince will be the first baseman, for anyone asking. cabrera will have to change role. #tigers
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 24, 2012
Miguel Cabrera, the man moving positions in this case, is just a year older than Prince and arguably the better hitter. The two of them together form quite the fearsome duo in the middle of any order. Partner them with Victor Martinez and the rest of 95 win team and, well, thanks for your best efforts, everyone in Kansas City!
When Victor Martinez does return in 2013, the Tigers have some decisions to make. V-Mart is nobody’s everyday catcher, especially with the excellent Alex Avila in the mix. Martinez will be 34 on Opening Day, 2013 with two years remaining on his sizable contract. Given the manner in which the Tigers splashed the cash today, there is nothing to suggest they wouldn’t take another bracing spoonful of financial insanity and eat some of Martinez’s deal to facilitate a trade.
As always with a contract of this size, the validity of all the rumors and half-truths presented over the last four months comes into question. How many teams seriously considered going nine years for Fielder? Earlier today the talk centered on the Naitonals willingness to add a seventh year to their offer. Nine years? Insanity.
What kind of player will Prince Fielder be in nine years? Does it matter? As was said elsewhere, to acquire Prince’s age 27-32 seasons, you have to pay for his 32-36 years. Is that worth it? The Tigers now have an astronomical amount of money invested in three players, including reigning Cy Young and American League MVP Justin Verlander (ugh). Three players at their peaks, it must be said. But this team is now into World Series or bust mode.
The Yankees solidifies their starting rotation. The Angels adds Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Texas adds Yu Darvish. The Rays turning prospect water into wine. The Red Sox show no signs of ever not being the Red Sox. The prospect of getting out of the American League is so daunting, the Tigers must feel they need to not only keep pace but steel themselves for battle beyond the AL Central.
In Cabrera and Fielder, the Tigers have two bad body mashers in the absolute prime of their career. How long can they collectively stave off the ravages and time and keep this very expensive window open? Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers front office gambled a considerable amount of money that they can keep smashing taters while Justin Verlander and his rotation mates stay healthy enough to compete with the Yankees, Angels, Rangers et al.
Meanwhile, the American League middle class feels the pinch. The Mariners, the Blue Jays, the White Sox are now faced with tough decisions. One of those teams saw the writing on the wall early, realizing it can’t beat the heavy hitters at their own game so went out to assemble a top notch farm system in a (probably futile) attempt to circumvent the rich teams hold on the top of the league. What of the others?
The incredible influx of high-end talent to the already-loaded American League means an already difficult task just became Herculean. They don’t decided playoff spots in January and spending money doesn’t guarantee anything. But talent does. Prince Fielder is the latest talented player to join the AL fray. Should be a most interesting season indeed.