Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler Trade Opens Up Options for Both Teams and Other Thoughts on Rangers-Tigers Blockbuster

Prince Fielder, Ian KinslerThat’s one way to shut up A-Rod.

Just when you thought that nothing could stop Wednesday’s Alex Rodriguez madness, the Rangers and Tigers went ahead and turned everyone’s attention back to actual baseball with a rare blockbuster. Texas sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder in a deal typically reserved for fantasy baseball owners.

The Tigers also chipped in $30 million, as Fielder — who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit prior to the 2012 season — is owed $168 million over the next seven years. Kinsler is under contract for the next four seasons at $62 million, which means that the Tigers will end up saving a total of $72 million as a result of the trade.

Sometimes, trades leave you scratching your head and trying to make sense of one team’s logic. Other times, trades seem totally reasonable for both sides, in which case it’s difficult to pinpoint a clear-cut winner and loser. This trade falls into the latter category. Regardless of which team got the better deal, it’s easy to see where each side was coming from in pulling the trigger.

Wednesday’s trade has many implications. As such, it’s probably easiest to just toss out a smattering of thoughts and let you fend for yourself. So here goes.

  • While this trade makes sense for both sides, I can’t help but think that the Tigers got the better of the deal because of the flexibility that they gained — something they needed.

Max Scherzer is a free agent following the 2014 season and Miguel Cabrera is slated to hit the open market after the 2015 season. If the Tigers want to lock up those guys, they’ll need cold, hard cash, and the $72 million in savings from this trade should certainly help their efforts.

“It makes it perhaps more possible,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said when asked if the trade could lead to a long-term deal for Scherzer. “As we’ve talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They’re well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players. Does it make it probable?  I can’t say that. But it makes it more possible going forward.”

Scherzer, who is coming off a Cy Young season, will undoubtedly be looking for a massive payday. Cabrera, who will still be just 32 when he hits free agency in 2015, could be looking at a $200 million deal.

  • Locking up Scherzer and/or Miggy is one option in the wake of Detroit’s newfound “wealth.” It isn’t the only option.

The Tigers need an outfielder, and the current market boasts a few — Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson and even Jacoby Ellsbury — who could be of interest should Dombrowski opt to open up the checkbook this winter.

If there’s one drawback of the trade for the Tigers, it’s that they lost protection for Cabrera in the lineup. I tend to think that concern is overblown and that the back-to-back MVP will continue to rake. But Beltran is an intriguing middle-of-the-order presence to consider, Choo is a corner outfielder who would slot in nicely at the top of the order and Ellsbury would be a dangerous leadoff option if the Tigers moved on from center fielder Austin Jackson.

Options. Options. Options.

  • Dombrowski indicated that Cabrera isn’t a lock to shift to first base. Still, it shouldn’t be long before Miggy crosses the diamond.

As good as Cabrera is offensively, he’s a liability at third base. The only reason he’s there is because of the Tigers signing Fielder. Now that Fielder is out of the picture, Miggy goes to first base, top prospect Nick Castellanos (who had actually begun playing left field in the minors) goes back to third base where he belongs, and Kinsler (who replaces free-agent second baseman Omar Infante) and Jose Iglesias form a solid defensive duo up the middle. It all makes sense, and the Tigers’ infield defense — a weakness in 2013 — should improve in 2014.

  • Fielder stinks in the postseason. Kinsler doesn’t.

Below is the side-by-side comparison of their playoff numbers.

Fielder: 39  games, .194 average (28-for-144), .287 on-base percentage, .620 OPS, five homers, 11 RBIs

Kinsler: 34 games, .311 average (38-for-122), .422 on-base percentage, .905 OPS, four homers, 20 RBIs

Fielder was not only awful this past postseason, but he was also very lethargic about the whole situation. There are probably plenty of people in Detroit who are thrilled about him hitting the bricks.

  • These are still good times for Texas, too, though.

Let’s keep in mind that Fielder was one of the most feared hitters in baseball as a free agent two years ago, and leaving Detroit — Comerica Park, in particular — could be exactly what he needs. The Rangers just might be getting an all-world slugger at a reasonable cost of less than $20 million annually — considering the money chipped in by the Tigers. In fact, there’s no reason to believe that Fielder won’t thrive in the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

“We looked at it quite a bit. If [Fielder] was coming off the best year of his career then [he wouldn’t] be available, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. “I think that’s kind of the whole idea of this deal.  If anyone feels like that’s a sign of things to come, that he’s slipping, you may not like the deal, we don’t feel that way…based on what we got from our scouts, and some of the analysis we did, we think there’s a lot more to come.”

Fielder fits a need and finally puts an end to the lingering conundrum regarding Kinsler. The Jurickson Profar era can finally hit the ground running in 2014 — assuming that’s what the Rangers want…

  • This blockbuster only creates more questions about what the Rangers have in mind this offseason. Texas has the money and resources to get creative.

Will they go hard after Brian McCann? Could they trade Elvis Andrus or Profar and pursue Robinson Cano? What could a package consisting of Profar net? Oscar Taveras? David Price? Giancarlo Stanton?

Again. Options. Options. Options.

  • This trade probably takes the Rangers out of the running for Mike Napoli. So that’s good for Boston.
  • This trade could lead to a new deal for Scherzer, perhaps leaving Jon Lester as the most desirable pitcher to hit free agency next offseason. So that’s bad for Boston.

The hot stove is sizzling, which is a lot more fun to talk about than any A-Rod scandal.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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