Amazing how I just finish a post in regards to there being opportunity on the roster, and the Tigers go and sign Prince Fielder to a nine year deal, answering at the very least the question as to who is going to replace Victor Martinez‘ production. I’m certainly not complaining, it’s a gutsy move by the organization, but an unexpected one considering the length of the contract.
The signing of Fielder obviously impacts Tigers star Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has been the Tigers 1B for the past 4 years, and with Prince Fielder added to the team, who also plays first, the Tigers have a bit of a logjam. They of course could simply remedy that situation by picking a guy they want to play 1st base, and putting the other guy in the DH role. But baseball players can be finicky, especially star players, and more often than not, they want to put a glove on as well to stay in the flow of the game. It also might affect Cabrera a little that he isn’t the highest paid position guy on the team anymore. Not only is he being pushed to another position, he is being pushed by a guy that is making more money, and probably not as good a player.
The problem here is, both guys are poor defenders at 1B. Given that Cabrera has a history of having played 3B poorly as well, he is the more likely candidate to move. His bad defense is at least versatile. I think we all can give them a pass though, the offensive output combined from the two mashers will make up for the deficiencies defensively, and at the very least should help the hair replacement business. I can envision the two making a decent percentage of fans pull their hair out in angst as they boot plenty of baseballs. Who cares though right? And I don’t say that facetiously. We are going to be too busy trying to add up their combined OPS to care about the errors.
The underlying thing here is what the Tigers do with Brandon Inge. Having just signed a guy to a contract worth over 200M dollars, I doubt that anyone is looking forward to eating another 5.5M to just let Inge go. I have to think that the Tigers are going to explore some options to get Inge’s salary of the books by making a trade. Of course, after the year Inge had in 2011, who is going to take him? Moving Cabrera to third base means that Inge is going to have a limited amount of time to show his value to this club. Don Kelly could replace Cabrera defensively late should the Tigers choose, so the need for Inge kind of disappears.
The Tigers by signing Fielder could also look to alleviate some dollars for this season by trading Delmon Young as well. Young was the 5th highest paid Tigers player before today. That is both kind of surprising and alarming at the same time. For a guy with little overall value, Young I think would be difficult to move unless there is a team that still believes his potential is still yet untapped. The problem here is, Young does have some value as a DH to the Tigers, at least for 2012. If the Tigers are going to play both Fielder and Cabrera in the field, then getting Young out of left field and into the DH role is probably the best thing they could do. It would provide more at-bats for Ryan Raburn and Andy Dirks who could potentially offer more overall value because of defense than Young would anyway. This would actually maximize their assets.
This could also affect Jhonny Peralta, but that is in the long term, as in next year. With the Fielder signing, I just don’t see the Tigers going for a sizable contract for Peralta if he has another year in 2012 like he did last year. Essentially, the Tigers will have 75 million dollars or so allocated to four players, and with their pitching staff all arbitration eligible and on the path to increased salaries, it will limit this organization in what they can do down the road. Especially if they don’t win a World Series. I guess we will tackle that beast when it arrives though.
Obviously, the player that looks like they will be affected the most is Brandon Inge. But that will depend on how Cabrera adapts to going back to a role he doesn’t seem all the fit for anymore. I have to think though, if the Tigers could get the Inge contract off the books for 2012, they would be happy. If not, he may be a casualty of the signing. We shall see.