Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Tigers’

Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for $214MM over nine years – was this a wise move? 

My first thought when I read the initial “rumours” about this signing that there is no way the Tigers would be dumb enough to pay a bad-bodied DH in the making 200+ million dollars.  Yet it is being confirmed that this is indeed the case. 

Let me get the obligatory “this player is great” out of the way early, because it is easy to appreciate what a great hitter Prince Fielder has been over his career.   

G AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ HR WAR
998 282 390 540 391 141 230 23.4

 Yeah, as I already stated you can see that any team would be dying to add a player with those types of numbers but ultimately I feel this is simply a waste of resources for the Tigers.

First, the Tigers didn’t need to make this move right now.  Fielder’s value and production will be at its highest over the next two to three seasons but the Tigers (with or without Victor Martinez) are favourites to win their division for at least the next three seasons in my opinion when looking at the landscape of the division.

This signing will absolutely affect nothing in the grand scheme of things other than the Tigers will clinch the division a week earlier.  The playoffs are a crap shoot and adding one player to your line-up is not going to give you a huge advantage over a short best of seven baseball playoff series.

 Fielder will be a huge help in the regular season playing 160+ games a season, without question but again the playoffs can have unlikely heroes all the time (Jim Leyritz for example) and the stars don’t always shine (Alex Rodriguez I’m looking at you).

By the time Fielder is starting his decline the divisional outlook should look quite a bit different with the Kansas City Royals presumably starting to make their presence known with a plethora of top quality minor league talents hitting the big leagues soon.  Minnesota has had too strong a track record of player development to continue their recent swoon and Cleveland and Chicago have only one way to go.

When the division is starting to toughen up the Tigers will have two fat DHs with monstrous, bloated contracts saddling their operations and payroll.  Good luck selling a team on a declining DH with no defense and a horrible physique if you are thinking they have an ‘out’.  A Vernon Wells salary dump happens only once in a baseball lifetime.

Second, and probably the most important point, there is almost no way Fielder will bring back the on field value (in terms of WAR) when he eventually (or possibly immediately) shifts to DH full-time.  The rough cost of a win on the free agent market is $5 million and with Fielder earning 24 million per season he will need to average 4.8 WAR per season.

Fielder, who turns 28 in May, has reached 4.8 WAR (or higher) in three of his past six full seasons, no easy task for a player of his age, position and limited defensive abilities.  But given his age it is safe to assume he has reached his peak and will not be improving over the duration of the contract and in fact is likely to plateau and/or decline in the next season or so given what we know about peak power and the age hitters start to see declining output.

For a quick comparison the currently reviled but once feared slugger DH/LF Adam Dunn had one of the most impressive runs a DH has had from 2004-2010.  His wOBA ranged from .403 to .365 in that span and his lowest HR total was a solid 38 – yet due to his awful defense, and left field status only managed a total of 18.9 WAR (or an average of 2.7 WAR).

There is no reason to think Fielder can’t produce upwards of 4.5-6.0 WAR for the next few seasons as his power is still extremely relevant but when he starts to decline there is little chance he can consistently produce that with his bat alone (if he moves to DH). 

We also have to account for the adjustment Fielder is going to be making with respect to his new team.  He is moving to a very friendly pitcher’s park that does not play nearly as offensive as the launching pad in Milwaukee.  He will also be moving to the tougher league and will be facing brand new pitchers (or guys he has faced less) on a nightly basis. 

Third, Prince Fielder is a large, large man.  There have been numerous studies done that have shown his body type will obviously not age as well as a slimmer player.  The absolute pounding his knees, ankles and joints take on a daily basis will eventually begin to catch up with Mr. Fielder and the natural decline phase every player goes through could be a more extreme one for him.

In closing, every team in the league would love to add a big time bat to the heart of their order and indeed Fielder might even push some of those teams right into contention (Washington, Toronto, Miami to name a few) if they were close to making a competitive push in their respective divisions. 

The Tigers are not one of those teams, there division is horrendous and that $214 million could have been spent on various pieces that will be needed to remain competitive over the next decade.  It was an unnecessary but impactful signing and maybe the real moral of the story is Mike Ilitch (Tigers/Red Wings owner) is among a handful of owners in sports that is never afraid to make a big splash – no matter the cost.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summed it up nicely when he wrote:

“And, if they win a World Series during that time, it will be easy to live with the cost to the future of the franchise while throwing a parade. However, that argument can be used to justify signing any player to any sized contract, and shouldn’t be how teams operate. At some point, the cost begins to exceed any potential benefit you could reasonably expect, no matter just how desperate you are to win or how much you think a single player will help you.

Fielder will absolutely help the Tigers. He might even be enough to help them get to the World Series and perhaps take home a trophy. But, in reality, if the team had $214 million to spend this winter, they should have been in on Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, who won’t make as much between them as what the team just guaranteed Fielder. As I wrote yesterday, the Tigers definitely needed to make an impact move, but because they got stuck in a position where there was only one impact bat left on the market, they found themselves having to vastly overpay in order to get that improvement.

For Detroit’s sake, I hope they win a title in the next three years, because the franchise’s ability to compete long term just took a serious hit. Borrowing from the future to win in the present isn’t always a bad idea, but at these prices, the Tigers should have explored options.

The cost was simply too high.”

Ok, so I can readily admit it, I am a sports addict, obviously.  Anybody who devotes as much time as I do to a writing a sports blog (which may or may not ever be read by another human) would be in denial if he didn’t just admit otherwise.  Let me save you the time and anguish and say if you are reading this we will just assume you are likely one too. If I am not actually playing sports, I am writing, discussing and usually thinking about them in some manner – doesn’t everybody have a few fantasy teams out there to worry about?

I will always love sports because they provide a great outlet from the everyday grind, for me watching the Maple Leafs lose another game is a great way to unwind and escape the “real world” for at least three hours.  As a former athlete who played sports 24/7 I love watching the absolute best compete against each other.  Most of my friends are fellow sports lovers so it is a great social outlet also, nothing beats having a few beers discussing the current state of your favourite team while watching the game on the tube (or live). 

I was lucky enough to have taken in Justin Verlander’s no-hitter a couple of seasons back with my friend (he still owes me for that one) and we still talk about that game to this day, the tension, the electric atmosphere, and the sheer euphoria that ensued when “Mags” (Magglio Ordonez) caught the final out to complete the “no-no”.  It was a priceless moment which a good book just can’t always (or ever) deliver.

However, today I wanted to discuss the opposite end of the spectrum as I am sure we have all known (or heard of) one or two males belonging to this strange breed – the non-sports fan.  They are normally fairly easy to spot as they are either totally silent during any conversation involving sports or they are the one looking perplexed during a simple “Halladay or Stieb” debate.  Sure, sometimes they will try to throw you off the scent and will throw in a “Yankees sure look tough” from time to time, even if they are currently mired in an eight or nine game losing streak, but for the most they aren’t hard to spot.

To quote Seinfeld: “Not that there is anything wrong with that”, and there isn’t, to each his own.  I have a multitude of non-sporting interests, including poker, politics, fitness & exercise and I am also a confessed stock junkie but sports is something that I always come back to and cannot live without.  If it isn’t sports then I have to ask, what consumes your time, what are you passionate about and what the hell do you watch on TV?  When I have asked this question I normally receive the following standard answers:

1)      I read – I love a good book and I have even been known to read a few from time to time, including non-sports books!  Still, how much alone time does a man need, or have?   

2)      Music – Sorry, I have over 10,000 MP3s and counting and even play the guitar relatively well.  This will not end my love affair of sports and in fact they normally go together beautifully.

3)      Movies – Again, if you have seen the size of my DVD collection you will understand my passion and love for movies.  Goodfellas, 25th Hour and The Unforgiven among my favourites.

4)      Time – They just don’t have time.  Hard to argue that, and sometime a 3 hour ballgame can be redundant, but what else are you keeping tabs on, celebrity gossip?  Of course, this is also the same guy that is lighting up your email with terrible jokes and frivolously updating you on his every move via facebook.

5)      Girlfriend /Significant other – This one isn’t always easy to get around as some guys might want to watch sports (a lot more sports) but they cannot successfully navigate the always tricky “what is on TV” argument.  Maybe I am lucky in that regard, I am normally in charge of my remote control.

6)      Kids – Can’t argue this one, but get them involved in sports at an early age and you will gain an extra vote (and hopefully a small majority) in the household TV voting democracy.

This isn’t directed at the casual sports fan, nothing wrong with taking a smaller interest in your favourite team or sport so you have time to partake in all of your hobbies and interests.  I am more curious to find out how a male basically comes to lose touch with sports all together, and completely.  Is it simply a lack of interest, general knowledge, athletic ability or does the girlfriend/spouse simply wear the pants?

Gentlemen, what am I missing?