David Schoenfield put up a fairly useless blog post about the Tigers signing Prince Fielder yesterday. It just became even more useless, as ESPN confirmed that Cabrera will shift to third base to accommodate Fielder (Schoenfield said this would never happen). I knew about this way before ESPN, thanks to Brother Evan passing along a local news link.
The real issue with Schoenfield’s post is that he tries to evaluate the signing by comparing Fielder’s numbers last year to Victor Martinez’s numbers. He views Fielder as Martinez’s “replacement” (Martinez is out for the year with an ACL injury). He estimates that Fielder is worth a paltry 3 more wins than Martinez, though maybe more if Fielder provides some protection behind Cabrera (or vice versa).
However, I would be thrilled if Fielder simply matched Martinez’s contribution last year. This might sound dumb, but Martinez just had one of the best years of his career (.330 BA, .380 OBP, 103 RBI); the Tigers won the AL Central by 15 games and nearly made the World Series. I’ll take a season like that again, please. The Tigers are paying more for Fielder, of course (Martinez’s contract is 4 years, $50 million), but Fielder is much younger and should be healthier. Teams pay for consistency and durability, not just ability, since a player can only help you when he’s on the field.
Whether Cabrera can play third is a more important question. Cabrera – Peralta – Fielder sounds more like the lineup for an eating contest than a double play combination. I’m hoping it doesn’t matter once those big bats get going.
One last thing: as I predicted, some stuffed shirt decided to write about Fielder’s productivity in the back half of this contract. The Tigers would love it if Fielder hits 40 homers when he’s 35, but everyone knows that’s not likely. The contract is nine years because that lets the Tigers delay the payments, not because the Tigers think he’ll be worth $23 million per year in his mid 30s. The Tigers are paying $214 million for five or six good years, not nine. Same goes for the Angels with Pujols.