Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:24 pm

Detroit gets fatter

First of all, I'm totally shocked by this deal. Every time I'm ready to suggest that Scott Boras is overrated and overhyped, something like this happens. Nine years and $214MM for an overweight and somewhat one-dimensional player. Don't get me wrong, Fielder is an offensive force at this stage in his career. He's surprisingly durable considering his frame, and has missed only 13 games in six years as a full-timer (only one in the last three years). Over the last five years, he's averaged 40 homers, 113 RBI, and a 151 OPS+, which makes him an elite offensive player, capable of batting 3rd or 4th in any lineup. The problem (as with most deals like this), will come down the line, when an aging and much less durable Fielder will be making $23MM+ at age 33, 34, 35, and 36.

Once Fielder exits his power prime, his value is going to drop off the table. He's not a bad contact hitter, but he's never hit .300 and he's a .282 hitter for his career. His defense is below average (-4.5 career dWAR), but he'll probably be the DH anyway. He's not a particularly strong baserunner and that's not likely to improve with age. So if his power drops off even a little, due to age, injury, or simply playing at the more spacious Comerica Park, you're left with an .850 OPS-ing DH making a salary that will likely be close to the top-10 in the league. Hey, there's nothing wrong with a guy that hits .285, walks a lot, and hits 30 homers, but for $23.8MM, you're expecting the guy to win MVPs.

Another issue I have with this deal is confusion as to what will happen with Victor Martinez. He'll be out for most of 2012, but he should be back at full strength for 2013, and he's owed $38MM for the next three years. I can't imagine they want him to catch full-time (after all, they have Alex Avila), and with Miguel Cabrera at 1B and Fielder at DH, I don't see where he plays. V-Mart only caught 26 games last year, and I can't imagine that Detroit is going to pay him $13MM in 2013 for that. Remember folks, the last time Miggy played 3B full time (2007), he made 23 errors and had a -1.1 dWAR. The last time he played there at all (2008), he made five errors in 14 games. Cabrera at 3B and Fielder at 1B will make for a pretty poor defensive infield.

I credit Detroit for going for it this year. Minnesota and Chicago are down, and Kansas City is still probably a year or two away. When your primary divisional competition is Cleveland, it's usually time to go for it, pretty much no matter what sport you play. I don't think this deal makes them the favorite to win the AL, but another ALCS appearence certainly seems attainable. They need some help at the back end of the rotation, and they probably don't have the money for it. They also need to stop letting Austin Jackson bat leadoff. That said, I'm excited to see what Miggy can do with Fielder hitting behind him. I think the AL MVP is coming back to Detroit in 2012, as Miggy will finally win one.
Category: MLB
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