It would seem to me that the Texas Rangers have missed having a first baseman of Prince Fielder's caliber since they traded Mark Teixiera to the Atlanta Braves during the 2007 season. Fielder's presence in the lineup will be felt in the form of protection for third baseman Adrian Beltre. Fielder moves into a much more hitter friendly park in Arlington than in Comerica. The trade is even more important that in sending Kinsler to Detroit, the move opens the door for a permanent position for Rangers prospect Jurikson Profar. As I noted in my post Elvis Got Paid from April 1, 2013, the signing of shortstop Elvis Andrus to a long term deal created a logjam in the middle infield that could be remedied with either a move to first by Kinsler or a trade. Now we know the answer. Back to Fielder.
I keep seeing reports that the Rangers might still be in the running to sign Robinson Cano. After picking up the remaining $138-million dollars on Fielder's 7-year $168-million contract (the Tigers will send $30-million) I can't see the Rangers adding an extra $30-million a season to sign Cano long term. I think their infield is set for the next two seasons as Beltre would become a free agent after the 2015 season. Why would the Tigers trade Prince Fielder at this point in time?
I believe that it comes down to playoff performance. Granted that having Fielder in the lineup gave two-time defending American League MVP protection in the lineup that he might not have next season, but Fielder's numbers during the season seemed to take a dip since he joined the Tigers and his numbers were virtually non-existent in the postseason. Fielder's slash line for 2012 was .313/.412/.528 with 30 homers, 108 RBI, 182 hits (35 2B/1 3B/30HR), 85 walks and 84 strikeouts in 162 games. His slash line for 2013 dropped to .279/.362/.457 with 25 homers 106 RBI, 174 hits (36 2B/0 3B/25 HR), 75 walks and 117 strikeouts in 162 games. In five postseason series for the Tigers in 2012-2013, Fielder went 18 for 92 for a .195 batting average with just 1 homer, 1 double and 3 RBI, with 6 walks and 18 strikeouts. Fielder did not drive in a run in the 2012 World Series or in either playoff series for the Tigers in 2013. This would lead me to believe that his lack of production in the postseason overshadowed the benefit of having him in the lineup protecting Miguel Cabrera.
The move to acquire Kinsler not only frees up payroll for the Tigers, but it pairs him with shortstop Jose Iglesias giving Iglesias a veteran second baseman to work his magic with. More importantly, the move opens up some possibilities for the Tigers at first. At first I wondered who the Tigers could sign to fill in at first. Mike Napoli instantly came to mind as I noted on my Baseball Sisco Kid Style Facebook page:
The good people on my Baseball Sisco Kid Style page were quick to remind me something that I had forgotten: Miguel Cabrera was already a first baseman and willingly moved to third when the Tigers signed Fielder after the 2011 season. So I guess that takes care of first base. But what about third? I suggested that maybe the Tigers could make a deal with the San Diego Padres for their third baseman Chase Headley or signing free agent Juan Uribe. My friend Christopher was quick to point out that the Tigers have third base prospect Nick Castellanos waiting in the wings. I had no idea who Nick Castellanos is so I decided to look into him a little.
According to Baseball Cube.com, Castellanos' slash line last season at AAA Toledo was .276/.343/.450 with 18 homers and 78 RBI. In 134 games he had 147 hits (37 2B/1 3B/18 HR) with 54 walks and 100 strikeouts. The big gamble is playing him at third. In the low minors, Castellanos played third while in AAA he played the outfield. Looking at his statistics, Castellanos had 40 errors at 3B while in the outfield he only had 8 of which 6 were in AAA. Considering that Cabrera played third while not being a natural third baseman leads me to believe that the Tigers would consider playing someone who isn't a third baseman at third. Josh Slagter of the Mlive.com website in his article Miguel Cabrera back to 1B, Nick Castellanos to 3B? Detroit Tigers will discuss it after trade mentions:
With Fielder gone to the Texas Rangers and Detroit receiving second baseman Ian Kinsler in return, Tigers president Dave Dombrowski noted it's certainly a possibility that two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera shifts back to first base and Nick Castellanos could get a shot at playing third.At the age of 21, Castellanos is the ranked as #11 on the MLB.com's top 100 list. So we'll have to see what plays out after the first big trade of this offseason.
For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Prince Fielder's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Ian Kinsler's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Nick Castellanos career statistics from Baseball Cube.com