It’s amazing how much two players changing teams can impact the baseball landscape.
Wednesday’s blockbuster, in which the Tigers sent Prince Fielder and cash to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, has implications all over the place, including Boston. It’s simply what happens in the age of free agency, where moving parts are constantly shaking things up.
Free agency essentially boils down to supply and demand, and the Red Sox benefit from Wednesday’s trade in the sense that there is seemingly one less suitor for free-agent first baseman Mike Napoli, whom Boston has expressed interest in re-signing. The Rangers were considered stiff — perhaps even the stiffest — competition in Boston’s quest to re-sign Napoli. Now that they’re out of the picture, it’s safe to assume that Napoli’s chances of returning to the Red Sox in 2014 are higher than they were two days ago. His price tag may have even dipped a little bit.
Clearly, these are assumptions that aren’t rooted in much beyond common sense. But sometimes, that’s all anyone really needs. The Rangers now have a formidable power-hitting first baseman/designated hitter combo in Fielder and Mitch Moreland, which means that — should conventional wisdom hold true — Napoli can cross Arlington off his list of potential landing spots. Likewise, the demand for Napoli’s services has dropped, at least to some extent.
Makes sense, right?
Wednesday’s blockbuster might also have long-term implications for the Red Sox, and those are far less beneficial to Boston.
The Tigers saved more than $70 million as a result of the trade. Detroit sent $30 million to Texas along with Fielder, who has seven years and $168 million remaining on his current deal, but acquired a player who is under contract for four more years at a total of $62 million. In other words, the Tigers have some newfound flexibility, which allows them to go in any number of directions.
One common belief — and one that Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski admitted is a possibility — is that the Tigers will sign Max Scherzer to a long-term contract extension. Scherzer is slated to hit free agency after the 2014 season, and there was talk that the Tigers might consider dealing the reigning Cy Young winner if it became apparent that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. Now, the Tigers definitely have the money to continue the relationship, if they so choose.
So what does this mean for the Red Sox? Well, Lester is also set to hit the open market next offseason. If Scherzer at some point signs an extension to stay in Detroit, which seems more likely now that the Tigers have money to spend, Lester will immediately become the most desirable free-agent pitching option. That could drive up Lester’s price, as there would almost certainly be more potential suitors in a market sans Scherzer.
Perhaps Lester signs an extension with the Red Sox soon, or maybe the Tigers decide to proceed without Scherzer at some point, in which case Wednesday’s blockbuster will be swept under the rug in Boston. It’s a situation worth monitoring, though, as the market — and the players available — is constantly evolving.
The futures of Fielder, Kinsler, Detroit and Texas all changed Wednesday, and it’s just a small sample of the blockbuster’s true impact across Major League Baseball.