Per media reports from everywhere, the Tigers have traded 1B Prince Fielder along with $30 million to the Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler. The deal is done.
Fielder, who is signed through 2020, will be owed $138 million over the remaining 7 years of the deal while Kinsler, meanwhile, is owed $57 million through 2017, which includes a $12 million option in 2018. The buyout on that option is $5 million.
All told, the Rangers will be paying $19.7 million AAV for Fielder’s age-30 to age-36 seasons.
The Tigers will pay $14.25 million AAV for Kinsler’s age-32 through age-35 seasons, plus an additional $5 million to buy him out in 2018.
In an objective sense, this is a blockbuster trade in every imaginable way. Prince Fielder has been one of baseball’s premier power hitters for the better part of the last decade, while Kinsler has quietly performed as one of the best 2nd basemen in MLB since arriving in Texas in 2006. Since that time, aside household names like Chase Utley (+46.4 fWAR), Robinson Cano (+36.9 fWAR) and Dustin Pedroia (+34.4 fWAR), Kins (+29.9) has been provided more Wins Above Replacement than any 2-bagger in baseball, according to FanGraphs.
With all respect given, this is a trade both teams probably needed to make. With their top prospect, 3B Nick Castellanos, ready to join a big league lineup, it allows the Tigers to shift the defensively inept Miguel Cabrera off 3rd base to a position less demanding — like 1st — all the while saving on Prince Fielder’s mega-contract, and fortifying 2nd base with Ian Kinsler. It makes sense all around.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are essentially doing the same thing: Dealing from a position of strength to fill an area of need. With Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar all in the fold, one of them had to either (a) be dealt or (b) switch positions. Taking the path of least resistance would have been to move Kinsler over to 1st base, while letting Profar take over 2nd;
Obviously, the Rangers didn’t opt to go down that route. They decided to go big. I could make a fat joke right now but I’m not going to.
Adding Prince Fielder’s bat to the lineup cures the logjam of middle infielders, gives them a 1st baseman — which they needed desperately — but could also prove costly down the road. Literally and figuratively. Because while Prince Fielder is sure to still be a valuable bat for the next 2-3 years, especially playing half his games in Arlington, it’s hard to deny the decline in his production from last year.
Here are his wRC+ totals over the last five seasons: 161, 136, 160, 153, 125
Here are his slugging percentage totals over the last five seasons: .602, .471, .566, 528, .427
Here are his on-base percentages over the last five seasons: .412, .401, .415, .412, .362
So, clearly, the Rangers are banking on Prince’s pre-2013 production. If they get it, then paying nearly $20 million per season over the next 7 years won’t look so bad. If his diminished production from 2013 is the start of a trend, if it’s not just a single-season outlier, then this will go down as perhaps the worst trade of Jon Daniels’s tenure with the Texas Rangers, which includes trading Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres, as well as Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals for Brad Wilkerson.
There is high upside to getting Prince Fielder, but only if he hits like his name is Prince Fielder.
On the flip-side, this is the end of a magical era with Ian Kinsler in Texas. And on a personal, more subjective level, the end of my favorite baseball player playing on my favorite baseball team.
Ian Kinsler arrived with the Rangers in 2006 as a hot-shot prospect who did nothing but mash at every level of the minor league system, mostly as a shortstop. He was converted to be a 2nd baseman once Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees, and Michael Young switched from 2nd to shortstop.
Kins got his first big league hit in his first big league at bat, off of future Hall-of-Famer Curt Schilling. I was on vacation with my family in Solvang, California, sitting in the hotel room when it happened. He was the 9th-place hitter.
What followed was a truly outstanding, albeit under-appreciated in the Metroplex, run of baseball. In eight seasons with the Rangers, mostly as a leadoff hitter, Ian produced a .273/.349/.454 (111 wRC+) triple slash line, which included 156 HRs and a franchise-leading 172 stolen bases. He was a true do-it-all-type player, one who possessed the intangibles and #leadership that any old-school baseball fan would be proud of.
My one regret with Ian is that he never got to win a World Series ring with the Rangers. For a guy who could do everything else on a baseball diamond, I hope since he didn’t get it here, he gets it somewhere.