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Tigers Sign Prince Fielder

Many years after his father ruled the field in Detroit, Prince Fielder has returned to play first base for the Detroit Tigers. The power-hitting first baseman signed a 9-year $214 million contract on Tuesday, giving the Tigers one of the most formidable offenses in the Major Leagues. What does this mean for Detroit next season? What about after?

There is no doubting the impact that Fielder will have on the Tigers’ offense this season; the 27-year-old will definitely fill the void left by catcher/first baseman/designated hitter Victor Martinez following his season-ending knee injury earlier this month. Martinez batted .330 last season with 120 RBI, and provided decent protection to star hitter Miguel Cabrera. Fielder adds a significant power upgrade (38 home runs/year in his first six full seasons) and adequately replaces Martinez’s RBI production. While Fielder’s lifetime batting average lacks in comparison to Martinez’s, the addition of Fielder may go farther than a batting average to help the Tigers as a whole.

Although Martinez hit .330 batting behind Cabrera last season, pitchers routinely pitched around Cabrera to face Martinez, knowing that Martinez did not possess the power threat to make the pitchers pay. The presence of Fielder behind Cabrera will most likely change how pitchers approach the middle of the Tigers lineup. If a pitcher tries to pitch around Cabrera, they will now have to deal with an immediate power threat in Fielder, not to mention the professional hitters behind him.

With the addition of Fielder, the Tigers now have one of the most well-rounded teams in the majors. They have speed at the top of the order in center fielder Austin Jackson, followed by power with outfielder Brennan Boesch, Cabrera, Fielder, and catcher Alex Avila. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Ramon Santiago, and the platoon of third basemen Brandon Inge and Wilson Betemit round out the Tigers offensive attack. Combined with 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and rising stars Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello, the Tigers’ balance should help them overcome just about any difficulties in just about any game. The main concern for the Tigers should be in the 2013 season and beyond.

Once Victor Martinez returns from injury in 2013, the Tigers will have to decide what to do with the combination of Martinez, Cabrera, and Fielder. All three play first base, and in the American League, all three are eligible for the designated hitter position. Reports say that Fielder will be the everyday first baseman, leaving Cabrera as the DH this season. However, in 2013, Martinez and Cabrera will have to fit into the Tigers lineup in some way.

Some possibilities: Martinez as the primary DH and Cabrera at third base. All three bats get in the lineup, but Cabrera is a significant downgrade at the third base position. Counting on Cabrera to play a decent third base for the majority of a season is a risk that the Tigers may not be willing to take.

Martinez at catcher and move Avila to third like Brandon Inge. Again, puts all three in the game, but again, leaves third base a problem spot.

Final: Trade either outfielder Delmon Young or Brennan Boesch and put Cabrera in the outfield. Leave Martinez at DH and Fielder at first. Cabrera is less of a liability in the outfield, and all three get in the lineup.

This next season for the Tigers should be exciting as they try to improve on last season and reach the World Series. Time will only tell if Detroit can live up to the hype that will inevitably surround them this offseason.

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