Rangers strategy for power becomes clear in Fielder-Kinsler trade
NOV 20, 2013 10:46p ET
The message is clear: the Rangers want to get back to bludgeoning opposing teams with the long ball. And Fielder's a player this organization has coveted since he hit free agency two years ago. All this talk about remaining status quo in terms of the payroll turned out to be just that. This is great news for fans wondering what life would be like in a post-Nolan Ryan world.
General manager Jon Daniels, who struck out during last year's offseason, came out swinging with an aggressive move Wednesday. The Rangers will receive $30 million from the Tigers in the deal, a source confirmed to FoxSportsSouthwest.com on Wednesday. Those payments, however, won't begin until 2016.
That means the Rangers are on the hook for $138 million of Fielder's salary over the next seven seasons. He'll probably transition to being a designated hitter for the Rangers four or five years from now. Manager Ron Washington said late Wednesday on a conference call that he'd like to keep Adrian Beltre in the cleanup spot and hit Fielder third in the lineup.
Fielder's power numbers dipped in 2013 – from 30 to 25 homers – but he still had 106 RBI. He didn't perform well in the American League Championship Series, which is still fresh in the minds of the Tigers organization and its fans.
But the Rangers would simply love to sniff the A.L.C.S. after winning American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. Fielder immediately becomes the most feared bat in their lineup. He had 55 homers in his two seasons with the Tigers. He's hit at least 25 homers in each of the past eight seasons. Detroit needed to dump a lot of Fielder's salary as it prepares to make a long-term offer to 2013 A.L. Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. Kinsler, whose been a disappointment for the Rangers after signing a five-year, $75 million contract extension, gives the Tigers a replacement for Omar Infante. Kinsler's been a solid leader for the Rangers, but he hadn't lived up to his contract. He balked when the Rangers approached him last offseason about moving to first base to make room for top prospect Jurickson Profar. Daniels said during Wednesday's conference call the Rangers had internal discussions about approaching Kinsler again, but they hadn't mentioned it to him or his agent.
It now appears Profar will begin the 2014 season as the everyday second baseman, although Daniels said it was something he'd have to earn through competition. Making this move relatively early in the offseason will allow Profar plenty of time to get used to that idea. And don't completely rule out the Rangers in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes. If that 10-year, $310 million asking price starts to drop, the Rangers will be prepared to swoop in and sign him. In that case, they would look to swap Profar for a corner outfielder.
I think both the Tigers and Rangers could be winners in this trade. Kinsler might not feel as much pressure to produce in a lineup with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Tigers fans should prepare for some of his clueless moments on the basepaths and in the field, but he's certainly not afraid of the big stage. As Washington pointed out Wednesday, Kinsler's been one of the most exciting players on the team.
Soon after news of Wednesday's trade broke, I asked a high-ranking member of the Rangers organization what he was getting in Fielder: "Power, consistency, on base, good eye, health. Loves to play," he texted.
Fielder's girth suggests he might be an injury risk at some point, but that hasn't been the case throughout his career. He rarely requires a day off, and the Rangers believe he will rebound from what was a down season by his standards. Fielder played in all 162 games for the Tigers this past season, and he's never played in fewer than 157.
The Rangers tried to build a team around pitching, defense and speed in 2013. It wasn't enough. And when they lost Nelson Cruz to a 50-game suspension, there wasn't any recourse. Adding one of the game's top power hitters is an excellent start to the offseason. And it's not our job to sit around and worry about the owners' checkbooks.
Fielder will average about $19.5 million per season through 2020. If he can hit 25-30 homers and drive in 105 runs a season for the first five years of the deal, it will have been worth the money. That would be a lot more value than what the Angels will likely receive from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton over the life of their contracts.
What Daniels did Wednesday was let baseball know the Rangers are once again major players. His failure last offseason followed by the Rangers missing the playoffs put him under a tremendous amount of pressure.
On Wednesday, the Rangers came out firing. Growing from within sounds good, but it's not always the right answer. Fielder's a player the Rangers have coveted for years. His left-handed bat should be a perfect fit for the Ballpark.
Is Cano next? Don't rule anything out at this point.
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