15 worst Detroit Tigers free agent signings in franchise history

Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics
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6. Prince Fielder, 2012-20 (traded before 2014)

  • 9 years, $214 million. Traded after two years, $46 million paid. Gave Rangers $30 million for a total of two years, $76 million
  • 6.9 WAR (4.7, 2.2) for Tigers, 55 home runs and .878 OPS
  • Angered fans by saying, “It's not really tough, man. It's over,” after playoff loss. 

This is an unfortunate one in a lot of ways, and another contract you could put in many different places on this list. From the day Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers, predictions were made about how it might turn out. Many of them foreshadowed the obvious: it might start well but it won’t end well. Little did they know how soon that would come to be true.

About two decades earlier, Tigers fans had had a love affair with Fielder’s father, Cecil. Back when 50 home runs was a bit number, Cecil’s run at the number in 1990 was a big deal. Prince grew up in the area when his father was a Tiger and played Little League ball in Grosse Pointe. Being able to get a “local” and the son of one of the most memorable Tigres players of the 90s was a big deal and so very fun.

It went well enough to begin. Across his two years in Detroit, Prince Fielder accumulated 6.9 WAR, hit 55 home runs and had an .878 OPS. The warning signs were there though, as his stats took a step backward for a third straight year.

In 2012, the Tiger made it to the World Series (where Fielder kind of fizzled, going 1-for-15) and they made it back to the ALCS in 2013 (where he again fizzled, going 4-for-22 with a double). 

After the gut-wrenching ALCS loss, he told reporters, “It's not really tough, man. It's over. I got kids I got to take care of, I got things I got to take care of. It's over."

That was not what fans who had just had their hearts ripped out wanted to hear, and the negative backlash was fast to come.

Given the wrong-way production and the way everything was going off the field, moving Fielder out of Detroit was in the best interest of everybody. They sent him to the Rangers with $30 million for a package highlighted by Ian Kinsler. 

Fielder played just 42 games the following season for the Rangers and only 289 total more before a neck injury forced him into retirement. The financial implications of that on the Tigers and Rangers were a bit more complicated. Nonetheless, even with the Tigers managing to dodge one by moving a large chunk of the contract off their payrolls, it’s hard to look at this deal as anything other than a big whiff in the end that could have been so much worse.