Here’s some kind of late breaking, instant analysis of what Prince Fielder signing with Detroit means for the Royals… You’ll feel better after you read this. Guaranteed, or your money back.
Miguel Cabrera isn’t a good defensive first baseman. Once upon a time, he played third and some in the outfield. Kind of difficult to imagine these days. With that kind of versatility, you’d think he was decent with the leather. Not so. He’s been pretty much awful at whatever defensive position he’s played. First base was his best spot if only because you can hide a poor glove there. Now, he moves to third – a position he hasn’t played regularly since 2007.
Now you have Fielder, who is a worse defender than Cabrera at first. Less agile and slower, it’s not surprising that he landed in the AL because he has “Future DH” stamped on his mitt. It’s surprising that a team signed him to weaken two positions in the process.
And the Tigers also have Jhonny Peralta at short. The only shortstop worse than Peralta would be Yuni.
Last year, Detroit was around the middle of the pack in Defensive Effiency. They are now an absolute lock to finish in the bottom five.
We’ve been down this road before.
Remember when the tigers were going to shatter the AL record for runs scored? Think back to 2008 when they stole Cabrera from the Marlins. One thousand runs was the prediction. Sky’s the limit.
Except they scored 821 runs. Fourth best in the AL.
The Tigers aren’t going to be hurting for runs. This isn’t the Mariners or Astros. But still… Baseball has a funny way of taking our expectations and smashing them to pieces.
They’re better… But not that much better
The Tigers grabbed Fielder because they lost Victor Martinez to injury. Just estimating, but I think VMart would be worth around 3 WAR. Prince will be worth around 5 WAR. Sure, the lineup is better when you replace Martinez with Fielder. But what lineup wouldn’t benefit from Fielder? At least in 2013.
Fine. The Tigers are improved. But some of the gains they realize offensively will be returned when they take the field. They haven’t improved enough that we can say they are a stone cold lock for the Central.
Be glad it’s not the Royals
These are the kinds of contracts that hamstring a franchise. Nine years? If you believe the Tigers weren’t even involved in the Fielder sweepstakes prior to the Martinez injury, this is just a staggering overplay by the Tigers. It kind of reminds me of 1993 when Ewing Kauffman opened his checkbook to bring David Cone back to Kansas City. Kauffman knew his time was limited and he desperately wanted to bring a winner back to KC. Cone was the guy and Mr. K personally got involved and ponied up the cash. From what I understand, the Tigers owner Mike Illich is doing the same thing. He’s getting along in years and his team has two studs on the roster in their primes, so if the Tigers are going to win, now is the time. He’s going for it. Brass ones.
But there were better gambles out there… Fielder could be out of baseball before his contract is over. Odds are strong his decline will be sudden… And steep.
Although the Angels will probably trade for him in four years.
The Royals are done shopping this winter.
The Tigers were the favorites before the Fielder deal, so nothing changes on this front. Short-term, the Tigers are the team to beat. Meanwhile, the Royals have always focused on the long term. While it’s possible GMDM could have been tempted to add a free agent arm like Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt in an effort to make a run at the title, he will now be content to throw this group on the field to see how they stack up the Beasts of the Central. If they’re in the hunt this summer, he’ll make a move. Otherwise, he’ll stand pat.
Don’t lose focus.
If you thought the Royals were going to contend this year, consider this signing a gift. And a reality check. Because the Royals were going to need several things break their way for them to win the Central in 2012. Don’t get that confused with me being a pessimist, or me thinking they’re not improving. I’m not and they are. But if you’re being rational, you understand you’re looking for a 15 to 20 win improvement for the Royals to be contenders. And that’s without addressing the rotation.
Short term, it makes it difficult for the Royals to contend. That’s fine. But this is why they play the games. We have no clue what’s going to happen in 2012, or the year after or the year after. Fielder could break down, Verlander could demand a trade, Cabrera could be in jail… Meanwhile, the Royals could have added three quality starting pitchers, signed Hosmer to an extention following his MVP year and seen a zero failure rate in the next wave of The Process.
To quote my favorite mental case, Joaquin Andjuar: “Baseball can be summed up in one word: Youneverknow.”