April 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder (28) slides safely into second base as Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) is unable to make the tag in the sixth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
First of all, here are the final details of the big Tigers-Rangers trade as reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan:
First of all, this means the Tigers will be saving a lot of money in the long term. It’s not so much that the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade opens up a ton of payroll space in the short-term (a few million dollars per year), but it’s going to save the team from having to pay a mid-to-late 30’s Fielder $24 million per year. If they Tigers spread out the money they’re sending to Texas out over the seven-year life of the deal, they’ll be forking over roughly $4.3 million per season. In that case they’d be saving just under $4 million in the upcoming year. Perhaps some of the long-term savings turns into money for Max Scherzer.
Secondly, this is going to significantly change the batting order. Miguel Cabrera will likely shift back to the cleanup spot, but we don’t yet know what will happen around him — it’s possible that Brad Ausmus could have had his own way of stacking the deck regardless of the trade. Maybe Victor Martinez moves up to the three hole and Kinsler hits fifth, or maybe Kinsler hits second and Hunter hits behind Cabrera. Or maybe the hole lineup gets re-imagined.
Defensively, this trade likely means that Miguel Cabrera moves back to first base for good. The third base experiment was a success in that he could meet a minimum standard of competency, but his lack of range made him one of the poorer defenders in the game. Perhaps more time at first base (with the opportunity for more games at DH) could help prevent another occurrence of last season’s groin strain (but who knows). At any rate, they’ll likely look like a much better defensive team come April.
I would guess this also means that top prospect Nick Castellanos is given the opportunity to move back to the infield and win the opening day job at third base. I’m not sure if they’ll put all their eggs in that basket, but that was probably the long-term plan anyway. He’ll have to prove he can make the quick re-adjustment and handle the position defensively at the big league level. Obviously this also means no more Omar Infante, which means the entire starting infield will be different than it was a year ago (Cabrera will still be there, but in a different position).
As far as the rest of the offseason goes, the Tigers can now cast a wider net (or at least a different net) in terms of filling out their roster. Instead of really only searching for a second baseman, they could now look to add either a third baseman or a left fielder. We’ll have to see what other tricks Dave Dombrowski has up his sleeve.