Is this really happening? At 2:53 p.m. on Tuesday, Tim Brown, a long respected baseball writer currently plying his trade for Yahoo! Sports, broke on Twitter what could very well be the most stunning news to date in this baseball off-season; Prince Fielder was “very close to a nine-year contract with the Detroit Tigers.” Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provided us with confirmation and fiscal information not ten minutes later; the Tigers would pay $214 million to Fielder over the duration of his contract. As soon as he passes a physical, Detroit will add a hugely intimidating presence to their lineup who will more than make up for the offense lost due to a torn ACL in the left knee of Victor Martinez. They didn’t sign Juan Pierre, thankfully, nor did they bring Johnny Damon back into the fold. The Tigers signed the biggest name on the market and shocked the baseball world.
Prince’s father Cecil, of course, was a member of the club for almost seven full seasons in the nineties. In his first season here, he hit fifty home runs, and during his Detroit tenure, he was a three-time All-Star. Prince was at the field with his father in his youth much like Martinez’s son, Victor Jose, was a fixture at Comerica Park last year. At 12 years old, Fielder was already hitting bombs in Detroit; legend had the youngster crushing a ball into the upper deck at Tiger Stadium. Though the slugger himself eventually refuted the upper deck addendum to that story, the home run remains an impressive feat and the tale has been a popular one now for two decades.
With that history in mind, it would have once seemed quite natural for Fielder to become a Tiger besides by blood. In June of 2002, that almost became a reality. Detroit held the eighth overall selection in the amateur draft and surely their brain trust was itching to pull the trigger for Fielder for much more than sentimental reasons. The narrative was ruined, though, as the Milwaukee Brewers nabbed him with the seventh overall pick. The Tigers would have to settle for Scott Moore and the rest is unfortunate history.
Fast forward to a few days ago and not many were still holding out hope for a Detroit reunion with Fielder. His relationship with his father is reportedly strained to the point where masses assumed he would refuse to play for any club Cecil did. A more tangible reason to shun fleeting thoughts of a Fielder signing was, of course, the fact that Miguel Cabrera is the first base incumbent for the Tigers. Neither hefty slugger is ready to be a full-time designated hitter at less than 30 years old. Besides all that, Fielder was just plain too expensive, right? Dave Dombrowski said himself last off-season, “Short of a couple of clubs, you can only have a couple of players who are making $20 million a year. We chose Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander to be our two key guys.” He has restated this concept several times, including back in November, when he told Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News flat out, “We probably won’t add another ($20-million player).”
For all those reasons and more, the addition of Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers is pretty surreal. That word, surreal, is thrown around spasmodically at times by many, myself included, but it honestly feels, when I think about this deal, that I must be dreaming.
But as inconceivable as the Fielder signing may be, all indications are that it really did happen. It turns out Dombrowski’s aforementioned comments regarding payroll didn’t mean all that much. There’s a good chance, in fact, that the general manager had little if any say in this decision at all. The impetus for it was very likely the fact that Mike Ilitch will turn 83 in July; if he’s going to win his World Series championship, it has to be soon. Maybe, considering the desperation at the top, this deal shouldn’t surprise me so much after all.
As myself and my fellow writers at Motor City Bengals continue to digest the newest addition to the Tigers, keep checking back here as we publish analytical content covering every angle of this move from a myriad of perspectives. Our team is sure to make you a Prince Fielder expert by the time spring training rolls around. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter here for my thoughts on happenings with the Tigers and baseball in general.