The Detroit Tigers sent shock waves through the baseball world when they inked Prince Fielder - arguably the best free agent first base option on this year's free agent market - to a nine year, $214 million deal.
Understandably, the media was buzzing at full force in the hours and days following the deal. You've probably caught several different people's opinions on ESPN - Jim Rome, Dan Le Batard, the PTI boys, etc. Refusing to be left out (or perhaps just doing his job), Keith Law tossed in his two cents.
In an ESPN Insider piece, Law talks about the short and long-term implications of this deal:
- Upon hearing about this deal, a lot of people immediately compared it to Albert Pujols' contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Even though the Tigers also are also accepting a long-term albatross in order to reap the short-term rewards, Law thinks that Prince's younger age (27 vs. 32) will make him more productive than Pujols by the end of their respective deals. I tend to agree, but will Fielder's weight undermine this theory?
- At some point Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila will each have to be in the lineup. Martinez will be coming off of a torn ACL so more time behind the dish is probably unlikely. To put it the same way Law did, will the Tigers have to "punt" defense? It looks more and more that way. How else do you get all four in the lineup consistently? Such a bad defense will likely offset some of the offensive firepower the team has. Think the New York Yankees of the mid-2000s.
- What does the Fielder deal mean for the Texas Rangers? They didn't seem to be serious about pursuing the slugger, but Law doesn't see Mitch Moreland as a long-term option either. Law says that the Rangers don't really need an upgrade at 1B to win the AL West, but the Angels could have something to say about that. The Angels may regret this year's deals 3-4 years from now, but in the short-term they significantly improved a team that was putting some significant pressure on the Rangers fairly late into the season.
The Prince Fielder acquisition is obviously a huge - yet perhaps unnecessary - splash made by the Detroit Tigers. There will be plenty of offensive fireworks provided by the middle of this lineup over the next few years, but what happens when the team's sluggers become too one-dimensional?