As I’m sure you know by now, the offseason of a certain Prince has finally come to an end. Paying a king’s ransom, the Detroit Tigers landed a Prince. In what can only be described as a reactionary move to the loss of Victor Martinez, the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214M deal.
What it means for the Tigers –
The loss of Victor Martinez is nothing more than a blip in the record book for the 2012 Detroit Tigers. Sporting the most dangerous 3-4 combo in baseball, the Tigers should have no problem defending its division title. But, after 2012, the Tigers’ outlook is more confusing than trying to convince yourself that Prince is actually vegan. The Tigers will have approximately $57M tied up into three players that play 1B/DH – Prince, Cabrera, and V-Mart. It is going to be very interesting to see how Leyland will handle the logjam. More interesting will be to see if Detroit maintains this level of spending in future years. Verlander is scheduled to make $20M through 2014. His future status with the Tigers is more imperative to their future success than the splashy signings for the offense. Tough decisions will have to be made in the future.
As for the actual baseball aspects of this signing, reports have already surfaced that Prince will play 1st and Cabrera will be 3rd. I think it’s safe to say that both will simply man the position rather than actually playing defense. Unlike football, defense does not win championships – or at least that is what Detroit is hoping. This move is driven exclusively by his bat. As Brewers fans can attest, Prince defines Beast Mode. Something worth monitoring, though, as he moves into a more cavernous ballpark: Prince batted a full .050 points higher at home than on the road last season, and belted 10 more home runs too. In 6 career games at Comerica, he’s batting .174 with one home run. Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but it’s something worth monitoring.
What it means for the Brewers –
Immediately, and most importantly, Ryan Braun (and his immense levels of testosterone) will not be protected by Prince. Braun will feel the impact of Prince’s loss the most. Undoubtedly, Braun is a stud hitter and will be able to produce without Prince. But, without that protection, Braun is likely to see fewer balls to turn on and drive. It will be important for the Brewers’ success for Braun to adapt quickly (once he’s back from the 50-game suspension that is inevitably coming).
Otherwise, the loss of Fielder may not be as significant as some may think. The Brewers success will be tied to how far Yovan, Greinke, and Marcum (the non-playoffs version) can carry them. The core of Braun, Hart, Weeks, T-Plush, and the new addition in Aramis Ramirez (assuming he doesn’t continue using his mug as his glove) should still make for a potent offense. As for who mans 1st, rumor has it Hart will supplant Fielder at 1B once Braun returns. The catalyst of Beast Mode will undoubtedly be missed, but the Brewers have anticipated this day for a few seasons and positioned themselves well to remain competitive.
What it means for the Twins –
Those with season tickets in the right field bleachers should be rejoicing at the prospects of finally seeing a few balls come there way. After all, Morneau and Mauer have combined to swat just 5 home runs in two seasons at Target Field (the same number of home runs Jose Bautista has hit in 3 career games). As the saying goes, a bad workman blames his tools. Even though Prince has had a nondescript three career games at Target Field, I’m sure he will make his presence felt against Baker, Blacky, F-Bomb, etc.
The bigger discussion, in my mind, is the stark difference in approach between the Tigers and Twins. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Detroit economy is not exactly thriving. Yet, the Tigers have made big splashes in each of the past several off-seasons, all in efforts to put the most competitive team on the field. Comerica Park opened in 2000, and it hosted the All-Star game in 2005. Ownership is clearly putting its profits back into the team. On the other end of the spectrum, Target Field opened in 2010, and is likely going to host an All-Star game in the next few seasons. The team has two stars (albeit injury-riddled stars) to build around. But, the team has not, and gives no indication that it will, make that splashy move to help put this team over the top. But, at least the Twins got Jamey Carroll!
Interesting food for thought… Prince is averaging $23.78M per year for the nine years on his contract. Mauer is scheduled to make $23M over the next 7 seasons.
One final note –
I think one of the most surprising aspects of this deal is that Prince Fielder chose, on his own volition presumably, to sign with the Detroit Tigers – you know, the same team his father, Cecil, played for from 1990-1996. And the significance of that is that Prince has made no bones about it – he does not have a strong relationship with Cecil and wants to avoid all comparisons to him. By signing with the Tigers, Prince is undoubtedly subjecting himself to continual comparisons to Cecil. How he handles the constant comparisons and questions about his relationship with Cecil will be one of the several interesting stories to follow this season.