Reaction to the Tigers blockbuster

Rick Yeatts

Prince Fielder is in Texas. Ian Kinsler is in Detroit. Does this trade alter the balance of power in the AL Central?

By now you've heard about the Detroit Tigers sending Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. And since the Tigers are the big cat in the AL Central, it only makes sense to see how this trade effects the Royals.

This trade helps Detroit in the short-term, but it's the long-term gain I really like for the Tigers. Let's look at the immediate impact. First, it moves Miguel Cabrera back to first base. This is pretty huge. Cabrera was a -25 in the Fielding Bible's +/- rating at third last year. Of course, he was injured for the last half of the year, but as a relatively healthy third baseman in 2012 he was a -11. Translated into runs, his 2013 defensive performance cost the Tigers 19 runs. Ouch.

The man Kinsler replaces, Omar Infante, had a decent season last year with the bat, but at age 32, that vibes outlier. And Kinsler is better defensively than Infante. Kinsler is a bit more steady on both sides of the ball. If you're into projections, Steamer has Kinsler down for a .339 wOBA next year while Infante is down at .322. I wouldn't be surprised if the gap is a little closer, but the edge still has to go to Kinsler.

Then there's the money. The Tigers have freed up a considerable amount of payroll and will always spend money anyway. They are in position to pursue someone like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo. Dave Dombrowski knows what he's doing. He has a plan. And he's usually able to execute. That makes me very afraid.

Long-term, the Tigers just got out from under a horrible contract. Fielder is owed $24 million per year over the next seven seasons. By the time his deal runs out, he will be 36. His production has dropped each of the last two seasons. He may rebound and be productive for the Rangers, but I'm dubious as to him providing full value through the life of his contract. Inflation be damned.

In a nutshell, this isn't a gain for the Royals. Kansas City had a ton of work to do anyway to catch the Tigers. I just don't see this making a difference either way. With Ervin Santana departing for greener pastures (greener as in money. Get it?) the Royals are a weaker team today than they were at the end of the season. You can't say that about the Tigers. The Tigers are still the team to beat in the Central and they now have some payroll flexibility to either extend a current player (i.e. Max Scherzer) or they can spend some cash on the free agent market.

So while this was certainly a blockbuster, I'm not concerned about how it impacts the Royals. Dayton Moore and the Royals brain trust have enough work ahead of them, no matter what the other teams do in the Central.


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