The big news over the last 24 hours, other than the State of the Union and other things in the real world, is that the Detroit Tigers killed the single biggest rumor mystery tour of the off-season and signed Prince Fielder. While it was fun for us echo-chamber types, I have to admit it got a bit nauseating after the 20th or 21st "Prince Fielder Rumors: Team, Team, Team" pieces we ran over the past several weeks.
The reactions have varied somewhere between jaw-dropping amazement ("Wow, the Tigers! Who woulda thought?!"), to regret from our friends in the AL Central ("well there goes the Twins' chances next season!") to one of relief in the NL East ("at least he's not with the Nats.").
The best reactions, though, are the ones looking at the big picture, answering: Is this enough for the Tigers to compete for a title over the next few seasons? What happens after that? What about Cabrera and Martinez? Here are some of the best, though I especially encourage you to read Dave Cameron's piece at FanGraphs in its entirety:
Detroit Goes for It, Signs Prince Fielder - Dave Cameron | FanGraphs Baseball
"No matter how much you might like Prince Fielder’s bat, there’s no getting around the reality that he’s going to be extremely overpaid during the second half of this contract, and this deal could turn into an albatross very quickly. As we noted a few months ago, the historical aging curve for heavy players shows significant drop-off at earlier ages than most players, as it’s hard for a player carrying that much mass to maintain health and flexibility as their body starts to wear down.
Fielder will have to be a big time outlier if he’s going to remain a productive player into his mid-30s, and even if you’re aggressive in your estimations of future salary inflation, a $214 million contract is going to pay him at premier player rates at ages when he’ll probably be more of a part-time role player. The question isn’t if Fielder will become a hindrance to the Tigers ability to compete, but simply a matter of when. "
With Fielder and Pujols, price of contending sky-high in AL - Jorge L. Ortiz | USA TODAY
Clearly, though, the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels are no longer the only extravagant spenders in the AL. The emergence of the Tigers and Texas Rangers as legitimate forces in the free-agent market has intensified the pursuit of high-end talent. Of the teams with the top five projected payrolls in the majors next season – the Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Angels, Red Sox and Tigers – only the Phillies play in the NL.
The Motor City Surprise - Jordan Bastian | mlb.com
The way I see things, this current Indians team could be a 70-win ballclub or a 90-win ballclub. There are just so many variables and questions heading into the season. If everyone stays healthy — a huge "if" as you all know — this is a young team loaded with talent that could make things interesting.
I’d still warn against crowning the Tigers the division champs already, though. Didn’t everyone think the Red Sox were going to cruise to another title after their recent megadeals? We all remember what happened there. Once the season starts, so many things can happen. You just never know.
Staring Up at Prince and the Tigers - Twinkie Town
"Certainly there is more to the Prince Fielder signing than its impact on the 2012 race. The Tigers have clearly mortgaged the future to make a stab at a championship in the next two or three years, and the ramifications of this signing will be felt throughout the AL Central for the next decade. And major questions linger about what the club's defense will look like in 2013 when they'll be forced to find room for three players that are best suited for the role of designated hitter."
Detroit's Long-Term Payroll Obligations - Buster Olney | ESPN (Insider)
"But if there is a time in the next three or four years when Ilitch isn't making the decisions, the Tigers could get crushed under the weight of their enormous payroll bubble. Most of the rust belt teams have payrolls in the range of $60 million to $90 million, and because of Ilitch's desire to win, the Tigers have typically committed anywhere from $110 million to $140 million.
They owe Miguel Cabrera $86 million for the next four seasons, and Justin Verlander is under contract for three more seasons at $20 million annually. We haven't seen the details of Fielder's deal yet, but it stands to reason that the Tigers will be committed to paying these three players about $65 million a year for the foreseeable future."
Prince Fielder And Other High-Priced First Basemen - Baseball Nation
But is he as good as his similarly-paid brethren? Adrian Gonzalez ($22 million per year) has put up three straight seasons as good or better than the very best campaign Fielder has achieved. Mark Teixeira ($22.5M) has bounced around performance-wise in the same way Fielder has as of late, but Yankees money and Tigers money aren't exactly valued the same, either.
The Yankees could absorb the risk of multiple Prince Fielders and laugh it off with more spending if that's what it took to win. Albert Pujols' ($24M) worst three seasons are basically the highlights of Fielder's career. In 2011, Pujols hit "just" .299/.366/.541 with 37 homers in his "worst" season. In a pitcher's park, in 15 fewer games than Fielder. They were basically equal.
What Will the Tigers Do with Fielder, Martinez, and Cabrera after 2012? - Beyond the Box Score
"Given the obvious difference in age and hitting ability between Martinez and Cabrera, it seems like a no-brainer that Martinez will need to be dealt after this season. The Tigers will need to make a decision in 2014 whether to try and extend Cabrera, or whether to hand first base over to Prince.
Given the deal that Albert Pujols just got at age 32 from the Angels, an elite slugging first basemen could still drive an incredibly high price on the open market even after age 30. If the Tigers can't get an extension done in 2014 that fits within their budget, and with Fielder locked up through 2020, I think it's safe to say Cabrera will be on the trading block by that point."
Prince Fielder Contract (Spoiler): Nine Years Is A Long Time - Baseball Nation
"But before you laugh too hard at the Tigers' fate, remember that the team scheduled to pay Vernon Wells $21 million this year still found enough money to sign the best hitter and pitcher on the free-agent market. So don't just assume that Fielder's contract will cripple the Tigers for years and years and years. He should also start out just fine, and in the short-term, at least, there will be a whole lot of dingers."
Prince Fielder According To Twitter - Baseball Nation
Rob Neyer fisks the internet, responding to tweets about the Prince Deal as they unfolded.
Detroit Tigers, Prince Fielder to Sign 9-Year, $214M Deal - MLB Daily Dish
The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214 million deal, according to the real Jon Heyman.
Detroit Tigers Complete Organizational Chart - MLB Daily Dish
Now featuring the SIGNED Prince Fielder!