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Breaking Down The Fielder-Kinsler Trade

Details are still coming in, but if what everything we’ve heard is true, the Tigers have traded first baseman Prince Fielder and $30M to the Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The money will help Texas pay for the rest of Fielder’s contract, as he is still owed $168 in base salary.

At first glance, this looks like a great trade for both teams. The Tigers needed a second baseman, and in a weak market outside of Robinson Cano (whom the Tigers weren’t going to go after), this move gave them a high-level second baseman. Kinsler is a 3-time All-Star, a career .273/.349/.454 hitter, and has both pop in his bat and speed on the basepaths. He is a viable lead-off hitter, and also has the ability to slide down in the lineup if need be. Defensively, Kinsler has had his struggles, and in 2013 ranked in the bottom half of everyday second basemen in most major defensive categories (although he ranked 4th in Defensive Runs Saved).

Looking at his contract, the Tigers have him locked up through 2017, with a team option. Kinsler will make at least $62M, a far cry from what Prince will make for the duration of his contract.

But what I like most about this trade for the Tigers is how it affects the rest of the team. Miguel Cabrera can now move to first base, where he won’t be as much of a liability defensively, and where he can switch off with Victor Martinez if Cabrera needs a day to DH. 

So as of now, the team would like this defensively: C Avila, 1B Cabrera, 2B Kinsler, SS Iglesias, 3B ???/Castellanos, LF Dirks/Castellanos, CF Jackson, RF Hunter. The Tigers can use an upgrade at third base, or try rookie Nick Castellanos there, where he originally started in the Tigers system. 

More importantly, the money saved by trading Prince frees up money that the team can use to sign Max Scherzer to an extension. Scherzer has made it clear that he wants to stay in Detroit, and now Dombrowski has the money to make a run at Max before he hits free agency. He also has the ability to sign a couple of bullpen arms that the Tigers so desperate need. In short, the Tigers have more money, and more flexibility in comprising a championship team.

For Texas, this trade is a win for them, too. The Rangers now have their everyday first baseman, and a lefthanded home run hitter that will love the short porch in Arlington. Even better for Texas is the elimination of the middle infield logjam that forced super-rookie Jurickson Profar to third base this year. Profar can now move to a more natural middle infield position (likely second base), and Elvis Andrus will patrol short for years to come.

Taking on Prince Fielder’s contract, which lasts through 2020, is a pretty big risk for the Rangers, but they’re hoping that the hitter’s ballpark and warm weather will revitalize the big man after a subpar season in 2013. It should help in the short run, but as Prince ages (he’ll be 36 when the contract expires), we’ll see if Texas doesn’t find themselves counting down the days until he reaches free agency.

Overall, this trade works. It’s always a shock to see superstars traded like this, but if it makes sense, then why not do it? If nothing else, it gives people like me some more material to play backseat General Manager with.

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