While the Dustin Parkeses and Drew Fairservices of the world are off enjoying their weekend, I’ll be taking the reins and providing you with some content to hold you over until the big boys get back to their desks on Monday morning.  Now you can get your Getting Blanked fix seven days a week.  You’re welcome.

I know, I know. You’re all sick of talking about Prince Fielder going to the Detroit Tigers. You’re all fully aware of the fact that his signing a nine-year, $361-bajillion contract is questionable especially considering the Tigers already had one of the best first basemen in the game in Miguel Cabrera and nowhere else to play him. You’re probably also aware that they will try to play Cabrera at third to what will no doubt be hilarious consequences.

Forgive me, but I have a couple theories about this signing and its consequences that I’d like to share after the jump

First, I would like to respectfully disagree with our fearless leader Dustin Parkes and Ol’ Reliable Andrew Stoeten on something they said during the Getting Blanked Podcast Thursday (by the way, if you don’t listen to this podcast, what’s wrong with you? Go forth now and listen. This week, Drew Fairservice interviewed FanGraphs prospect expert Marc Hulet). They said that the Prince Fielder signing quite obviously makes the Tigers a better team. I’m not sure I agree.

First, let me be clear, Prince Fielder is one of the very best first basemen in the game and is a terrific player. Being a resident of Windsor, ON, I cannot wait to traverse across the border to watch Prince mash bombs into the rightfield bleachers at Comerica Park on a regular basis. I’m not even sure I totally disagree with Fielder getting a nine-year contract worth over $200-million. The questions of his durability are, to me, largely unfounded and seem to be the result of a societal prejudice against larger people. Prince is just as likely as anyone else to decline at a normal rate and his durability to this point in his career is a testament to that. His contract is a slight overpay, but not grossly so. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Fielder to be a 5ish WAR player for the duration of the contract.

But back to the question; does Prince Fielder make the Tigers better in 2012? Assuming that Victor Martinez could have been counted on for roughly 3 WAR (he was worth 2.9 WAR according to FanGraphs last season) and Prince can be counted on for roughly 5.5 WAR (he was worth exactly that last year) that means Prince coming to Detroit and Martinez sitting out the year adds roughly 2.5 wins to the Tigers total. This, if you stop there, clearly shows that the Tigers should be better in 2012 than they were in 2011. But what about the defense?

Let’s assume that the Tigers’ plan to play Cabrera at third permanently sticks (something that I’ll admit seems unlikely); doing this will clearly make the Tigers a worse team defensively. Cabrera was a bad third baseman four years ago when the Tigers moved him off the position and he was never exactly a good defensive first baseman either.

Depending on what defensive metric you prescribe to, Cabrera cost the Tigers between four and six runs at first in 2011, or roughly half of a marginal win. Moving him to third base is very likely to increase that dramatically. If the Tigers stick with Cabrera at third for better or for worse (let’s keep in mind, this was a team that batted Delmon Young and his sub-.300 OBP third for much of the latter half of 2011) then they may negate most of whatever positive gains they attain by having Fielder in the lineup.

The other problem the Fielder signing presents for Detroit pertains to them now having committed $338-million to three players who can only truly play two positions at the wrong end of the defensive spectrum. Let’s assume for a moment that the Tigers decide Cabrera can’t play third base; a platoon 1B/DH with Fielder then seems logical and solves their problem for 2012, but what of 2013 and beyond? Detroit can’t reasonably play Martinez at catcher given Alex Avila’s emergence and his own defensive shortcomings and the other two spots are already taken up by better players. So what do they do?

They obviously can’t and won’t trade Fielder and trading Martinez would be impossible considering his contract and the fact they he’ll have missed an entire year, tanking his trade value. So, is it possible that the Tigers have backed themselves into a corner where the only solution is to explore trading Miguel Cabrera? If they do that, they could potentially make themselves significantly worse.

This may all work out fine for Detroit, but the chances of that seem slim. If I spend $214-million on a player, I’d want to make sure that it was going to be a positive-sum move. For many teams in baseball, signing Fielder would have made them a significantly better team. For Detroit, I just don’t see the fit.

Comments (18)

  1. Who is more lesbian gramma: Illitch or Beeston?

  2. After a couple ground balls I assume the Tigers will realize Cabrera can’t play third. Having Prince and Cabrera split 1B and DH seems like the only realistic possibility this year and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
    When Martinez returns next season there will clearly be a problem. Then, I think the logical move would to trade Cabrera (the best alcoholic baseball player since Mickey Mantle) and his favorable contract.
    Perhaps the Blue Jays will be looking for a first baseman?

    • shutupshutupshutup votto is coming in 2 years and by then we’ll be ready to compete and rogerts will be spending money and everything will work out perfectly so just shut upshutup

      • I’ll admit the final sentence was designed to provoke venomous anger.
        In all seriousness, Adam Lind is the first baseman of the future.

  3. hey jays fans,Yoenis Cespedes is still available.

    just say’n

    • Cabrera makes great sense for the Jays at first or DH. It’s sad to watch Joey take 150 walks and by the time we grow some help for him, he’ll be in decline. Doubt if Alex W Anthopolis will throw our beloved prospects at Detroit,. “W” stands for Walmart.

  4. A trade that might make sense would be for the Tigers to trade one of their first basemen to the Rangers for Adrian Beltre and something else. The difference between Cabrerra’s salary and Beltre’s would be only $6m for the Rangers to absorb. They’d have the first baseman they want and Michael Young could play 3B. They’d have David Murphy and Mitch Moreland as DH options or trade bait to get a backup at 3B Rangers also have a good 3B prospect coming along in Mike Olt, though he is likely a year or so away at this point. Trade would likely make both teams better.

  5. In response to article thesis:
    1. Prince does make the Tigers better.
    2. The value of the contract is irrelevant.

    • Show your work…

      • I’ll take that challenge: Without Fielder, the Tigers have Cabrera at first base, and Inge at third. Cabrera is probably a +60 hitter and a -5 fielder at first. Inge is (generously) a +5 fielder at third and a -10 hitter. That’s a total of +50 runs above average.

        Fielder would be taking Inge’s playing time, moving Cabrera to 3rd. Let’s be pessimistic and say that Fielder is currently a +45 hitter and a -10 fielder at first. And let’s say that Cabrera will be a -25 fielder at third. That’s still 70 runs above average.

        QED, Reitsma

        • Yes, but what I’m saying (and perhaps I didn’t make this clear) is that they’re no better than they were without Fielder AND with Martinez. Obviously they’re better than they would be without Fielder AND without Martinez.

          Essentially, I’m saying the gain might be minimal compared to how good they were a month ago, and that it makes their future more than a little uncertain. For $214-million, I want certainty.

          • Sorry to miss that point. Though, Victor Martinez’s injury is really an independent variable.

            But if Fielder or Cabrera were to DH, it would be a clear upgrade on Martinez at DH. The possible wash is if Detroit downgrades on defence while having a replacement-level DH. And since we’re looking at a possible 2+ win downgrade defensively, that would be a wash. But I think DH is manageable- use Delmon Young as the right-handed part of the platoon, and you can give Prince Fielder and Alex Avila some starts at DH against right-handers to give them some rest from the rigours of playing in the field. If Young gets 50 starts, and Fielder and Avila both get 20 starts at DH, maybe the Tigers sign Fukudome or Matsui to complete the left side of the platoon.

  6. They split Fielder and Cabrera at 1B/DH and eat a bunch of Martinez’s contract to sign him. Fielder gives them 5 more wins than the 0 wins they would get with the guys they have now DH’ing, and Martinez’s departure brings back something of value when they eat the salary.

  7. Shoutouts to Windsor, Ontario. My home too.

    I also question whether this deal will work out for the Tigers. I have a feeling Migs will find it difficult to replicate last season’s offensive dominance and predict that will be questioned more than his defensive flaws. Although there’s no denying they will lose games by playing him at third.

    Here’s a tip, bet a lot of overs with the Tigers this season

    • Unless Verlander is pitching, of course.

      And I didn’t know you were from Windsor. I’ve seen you on TV and stuff! I’m originally from Cobourg (South of Peterborough), but I’ve been in Windsor now for eight years.

  8. Bunts down the 3B line when playing the Tigers?

    I think so!

  9. What’s the value of making sure Texas didn’t get him? Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

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