In the first blockbuster trade of the offseason, the Detroit Tigers swapped out a power-hitting first baseman for a multi-threat second baseman.
The Rangers Get: 1B Prince Fielder.
Fielder, 29, drove in more than 100 runs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, but his .819 OPS was the lowest of his career, with his 2.2 fWAR his worst since 2008.
From 2006 through 2013, Fielder slugged 283 home runs, ranking fourth, so his power ought to play well in Texas, which is one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the game.
Fielder is also exceptionally durable, his 1283 games played since 2006 leading the majors, so he also has durability going for him.
The question when it comes to Fielder is going to be in terms of value, particularly in comparison to the financial obligation that the Rangers are taking on by picking up the seven years and $168-million remaining on Fielder's contract. Now, they're not picking up all of it. Initial reports indicate that the Tigers are sending $30-million along to help defray the cost of Fielder's contract.
Fielder, who rates as a subpar fielder on a consistent basis, will replace Mitch Moreland at first base for the Rangers, with Moreland able to play a corner outfield spot or designated hitter, effectively filling in for the recently-departed David Murphy, who just signed with the Cleveland Indians.
Furthermore, and perhaps the primary impetus for this deal from the Texas perspective, is that by dealing Ian Kinsler, the Rangers open up an everyday spot in the lineup for Jurickson Profar, the 20-year-old top prospect who came up through the organization as a shortstop, but played wherever he could fit into the Texas lineup last season and 32 games at second base was his most at any position.
Provided he continues to stay reasonably healthy through his mid-30s, Fielder ought to be productive enough to make this deal palatable to the Rangers. If he hits 30 homers a year in the cleanup spot for the Rangers, that's an upgrade in power that the Rangers need.
The Tigers Get: 2B Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler is a 31-year-old who has been one of the most productive second basemen in the game but, for the first time in his career, his OPS has been under .760 the last two seasons. His 2.5 fWAR last season was his lowest since 2007.
While his power has dipped, particularly from the 2009 and 2011 seasons when he hit more than 30 home runs, Kinsler is also showing patience at the plate. His 3.9% rate of swinging strikes ranked seventh-lowest among qualified batters last season, so he's not an easy out. It's fair to expect that it will be more difficult for Kinsler to hit home runs in Detroit, compared to Arlington.
Kinsler does figure to be an upgrade over Omar Infante, but the benefit of moving out Fielder is that the Tigers should be able to shift Miguel Cabrera back to first base. Cabrera's a great hitter, but a poor fielder and will likely do less damage with the glove playing at first.
Over the last couple years, Kinsler has a subpar Ultimate Zone Rating, but his Defensive Runs Saved is among the highest at the position. Since 2009, Kinsler has 59 DRS, ranking second among second basemen.
Kinsler has four years and $57-million remaining on his contract (with a $10-million option, $5-million buyout, for 2018). In the total summation, it will cost the Tigers about $92-million for four years of Ian Kinsler and the Rangers will pay about $138-million for seven years of Fielder. Both players should be productive, though declining as their contracts take them to their mid-30s.
The benefit to the Tigers is that they create some financial flexibility that will come in handy for signing others, most notably Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who is slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season.