MLB: Blockbuster trade report sends Prince Fielder to Rangers for Ian Kinsler
Baseball's once-cool hot stove is now blazing. The Rangers and Tigers shook up the baseball world Wednesday night by trading big-name veterans Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder for each other, as first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Tigers are also sending $30 million to Texas. Let's break down what this trade means from fantasy and reality viewpoints
Fielder, 29, is coming off what was arguably the worst full season of his career as he set a career-low with 25 home runs despite playing every game for the fourth time in the past five years. His .362 on-base percentage and .819 on-base plus slugging were his worst marks since at least 2006, and he added to the disappointment with a completely forgettable postseason. But the Rangers are in need of a big bopper, especially since outfielder Nelson Cruz is expected to leave via free agency. And last year, Rangers' first basemen posted the second-lowest OPS in the American League, .700. The Rangers are hoping Fielder rediscovers the stroke that made him a perennial 30-homer player. He is only one year removed from launching 30 home runs in Detroit with an outstanding .313/412/.528 slash line. It seems very possible that Fielder can reach or approach those levels again in the launching pad that is the Ballpark in Arlington. Despite the fact that he is losing his comfortable spot between Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, Fielder remains at least a top-five fantasy first baseman. You should expect a rebound year in the power departments.
Kinsler, 31, provides some speed into what was a very sluggish Tigers lineup on the bases. Maybe most importantly, he provides the Tigers' front office with tremendous financial flexibility. While Kinsler is still owed $62 million over the next four years, Detroit no longer has to deal with Fielder's colossal contract, which had seven years and $168 million remaining. That extra space could lead to the Tigers giving pitcher Max Scherzer a long-term extension or going in big on another offensive weapon.
Kinsler will likely take over at second base as free agent Omar Infante is likely on his way out. However, he is not the fantasy player he was just a few years ago. Although he can still run, his stolen-base success rate last year was just 57.6 percent, this after spending much of his career between 80-90 percent in that area. His 15 steals tied a seven-year low, and Kinsler's home runs have dropped each of the past two seasons. He is still making plenty of contact, doesn't kill his team with strikeouts, is getting on base a fair amount, and remains a basic lock for 100 runs if he stays healthy, which has been a problem. The runs will still be there for him in Detroit. But Kinsler appears to be far removed from the power-speed threat he was in Texas, even further now at spacious Comerica Park. His most important contributions to the team may come indirectly on the books, not on the field. He is still around the top five at a weak fantasy position, but Kinsler is more of a fourth- or fifth-round pick with not a ton of upside.
This trade has many more layers to it past the star-for-star aspect. Possible future studs for each team are also impacted. For Texas, 2013's No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, Jurickson Profar, now slides into second base on a full-time basis. While he hasn't blossomed yet, Profar will only be 21 years old in February and possesses Kinsler-like talent. He is an easy top-10 second baseman who could come into his own at the plate now that he has an everyday role.
In Detroit, American League MVP Miguel Cabrera moves back to his more natural position at first base, although he may be able to retain dual-position eligibility for 2014 in some leagues. His elite fantasy value is unchanged by this news other than perhaps it leads to a few more walks without Fielder's protection. If the Tigers don't want to spend on the third-base market, they could call up Nick Castellanos, who got 18 at-bats in the majors last year, and hit .278. He will be 22 in March. He isn't considered to be a wizard with the glove, but he has 20-homer potential with a decent average to boot. He might need a little more seasoning, but it also wouldn't be a shock to see him in the Tigers' lineup on Opening Day.
Overall, it's a deal that helps both teams. The Rangers probably "win" this trade in a short-term sense as they receive the more valuable player and fill a huge power need. However, as Fielder ages with that monster contract, letting him go and using that financial space elsewhere is probably going to look pretty smart on Detroit's part.