Earlier this week Prince Fielder decided to sign with the Detroit Tigers for nine years, $214 million. When the signing happened a series of thoughts came to me. First was the shifting of power in baseball. This is vague, and there’s a reason for that. There are many areas where the power is shifting in the game of baseball, not just one.
Let’s get into the obvious part first: whether or not this was a good deal for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers currently have Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, and now Prince Fielder locked in until 2014 at least. Cabrera and Fielder’s contracts extend beyond 2014. (Cabrera 2015, Fielder 2020) The Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch, has expressed that he wants to win a World Series now. He’s not getting any younger so I don’t blame him. After all it is his money and when Miguel Cabrera’s protection went down with an injury (Victor Martinez) he had no choice but to sign Fielder.
I see a lot of overreaction on Twitter and other sports network sites that say this deal isn’t a smart one. Look, the guy is 27 years old and is in the middle of his prime. The Tigers have him for the next nine years, so he’ll be 36 when the contract ends. Likely that is when he’ll show signs of decline, and then he and the Tigers will part ways. The only argument anyone can use now are what if’s. What if Fielder’s weight plays a part in his aging? Well there’s no way to tell how that is going to play out. As of now, I think no one is worth that amount of money, but in today’s game anyone can get that amount. If one guy were to get that money, it’s fair that it’s Fielder. He’s a top-five power hitter in the game today. Also, Tiger fans have nothing to worry about Fielder’s home run totals in Comerica. Miller Park is 356 in right field, Comerica is 330. Pull it Princey.
Comerica Park and Miller Park Dimensions, respectively:
The middle of the Tigers’ order is really dangerous. You’re looking at Cabrera, Fielder, and Young. Then next year add in Victor Martinez. It’s going to be a scary lineup for years to come. There’s also no better 3-4 combination in the league now that these two are protecting each other. The only issue I see here is not the hitting, it’s the defense. Fielder will get the first base position, meaning Miguel Cabrera will move back to third, the position he originally played in Florida and his early days in Detroit. He’s not a strong fielding third basemen. His small sample size of a -36.8 UZR proved that. If I’m the Tigers, I’m considering moving Victor Martinez at the end of the season. That’s if they truly feel Avila is the answer at catcher. There are so many different options for the Tigers after this season. Personally, I feel Fielder should be the DH.
Speaking of the DH, the DH is why many of these National League power hitters are going to the American League. I know the new CBA has more inter-league play, but I imagine AL teams will play more games in AL ballparks. The DH position gives heavy power hitters like Fielder an extra year or two on their contract. For example, look at an aging power hitting left fielder. You can’t have him as a liability in your outfield as a National League team. You’ll have to let him go and a American League team will most likely make him their new DH. Like Manny going from the Dodgers to the Rays. Major League Baseball needs to add a DH to the National League. It will make the league more fair, and more entertaining to watch. Sure the NL has a bit more strategy to it, but do we really want to see Roy Halladay hit?
Albert Pujols also darted to the American League. The Angels are looking to steal the AL West Title back from the Rangers by signing the greatest hitter of the last decade. Along with their very talented pitching staff that added C.J. Wilson too this off-season. Albert Pujols is going to be an Angel for the next 10 years. This is a contract I worry more about. Pujols is 31, and will be 41 when the contract ends. I give him 3-5 more years of Pujols-like production, but the regression is already in the works.
Pujols fWAR over the years :
2010 – 7.5
2011 – 5.1
A 5.1 fWAR is good, but when when Pujols’ best years are behind him I wouldn’t want to be the team signing him to a 10-year contract. There’s been a debate of what is the smarter move for the future. To sign Pujols or Fielder. To me, it’s clearly Fielder. Fielder posted a 5.5 fWAR last season, and he should either stay at that mark or jump into the next level within the next three years. While for Pujols, like I said earlier, will only regress.
The National League, specifically the National League Central owned the most talented first basemen for years. The Cardinals with Pujols, Brewers with Fielder, and the Reds with Votto. Now Votto sits alone as the best NL first basemen. The second best one in the NL might be Ryan Howard, and he could be out for half or the entire season. Rumor is that Votto could possibly be on his way out. The Reds are still trying to make a push though. Trading for Latos and signing Madson. If they aren’t in the mix by the deadline I could see offers made for Votto. Maybe to an American League team like the other star first basemen.
The AL now has an amazing core of first baseman. It’s going to be difficult to vote these guys in your All-Star ballots. The Tigers own two top-five first basemen. The Angels too have a nice first base duo in Pujols and Morales. Then you have Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira. It’s scary when out of these elite first basemen in the American League, Mark Teixeira is probably the worst. I would rank them Gonzalez, Pujols, Fielder, Teixeira. Cabrera would be ranked first if he wasn’t being moved to third base.
The final shifting of power is the balance of good teams in baseball. The American League has the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. The National League has the Phillies. Then you can consider the Braves, Marlins, Cardinals, Reds, Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies all second-rate teams for now. If I had a power ranking of the top seven, six of them would be American League teams. It just seems as if the offense in the American League is just at a different level. The Phillies lineup is good, but they don’t have anyone really scary when they come up to the plate. Pence is great, and so it Utley, but you can’t win World Series without run production. Even with a staff containing three potential Cy Young winners.
Going back to the American League, Major League Baseball is in need for the extra Wild Card team. It would be a shame to see two of the elite American League teams miss the playoffs. This season the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels, and Rangers could miss the playoffs because there is only one Wild Card winner. Two of these teams are going to be sitting home.
Prince Fielder didn’t start the shifting of power in baseball, but he is a major part of it now. The American League is getting stronger while the NL is losing their power hitters via free agency and trades. This just shows that the DH is giving American League teams more power. While the NL will have to take more of a small ball type approach.
By Senior Writer : Joe