Tigers Find the Deal they Needed
For most teams, an AL Championship and an ALCS appearance in two years is a pretty productive run, but for the Tigers it wasn’t enough. In a league that’s seen so much variety in World Series Champions (no back-to-back winners in the 21st century) and even division champions, the Tigers have found a way to be remarkably consistent. They’ve made three straight ALCS appearances and played a different opponent each year. But that World Series ring has continued to be elusive for the team ever since Jim Leyland’s first season in Detroit, when the team fell in the World Series to St. Louis.
The Fielder project was a failure for a number of reasons, some that couldn’t have been foreseen by Dombrowski at the time of the signing. For example, at the age of 29, Prince Fielder is coming off arguably the worst season of his career. Forget about his 40 postseason at bats without an RBI, I’m talking a dreadful regular season considering both his potential and his circumstances. Fielder’s 25 home runs were the lowest of his career (not including his 39-game rookie year), his .279 batting average was the 4th lowest of his career, and his .819 OPS wasn’t only the lowest of his career but well below his career OPS of .916. And what makes everything about his season even worse is the fact that he was hitting behind a player who was in the midst of one of the greatest hitting seasons in the past 25 years, maybe ever. In his second straight MVP season, Miguel Cabrera hit .348 with 44 home runs, 137 RBIs, a ridiculous on-base percentage of .442, and an OPS of 1.078. He led the major leagues in every single one of those categories except for home runs and RBIs, finishing second to Chris Davis in both.
Does Fielder have the potential to bounce back in 2014? Of course. And the Rangers were desperately in need of a power hitter to help support Adrian Beltre in the middle of the lineup, so the fit in Texas is perfect. The price is really the only question. Fielder’s contract has about 7 years and $140 million left, after the Tigers killed two years of it and sent the Rangers $30 million in the trade to help cover some of the damage. If Fielder brings it together, he could really help the team forget the loss of Josh Hamilton’s bat, which was a big struggle last year.