When the White Sox were in the final moments of locking down Jose Abreu, their claim withstood a late reported charge from the Texas Rangers. Rick Hahn managed to secure his new $68 million first baseman, and his success forced Rangers GM Jon Daniels to look elsewhere.
A month later, beating out the Rangers for Abreu may have inadvertently led to the Detroit Tigers solving their biggest long-term problem.
The Rangers made up for the Abreu miss by acquiring Prince Fielder from Detroit for Ian Kinsler in an exchange of unnecessary contracts tonight. It caught just about everybody by surprise, moving from a Jon Heyman rumor to multiple reports confirming a done deal in under an hour. There are no other players involved, but the Tigers will send $30 million with Fielder.
That's a price worth paying when considering what the Tigers will avoid toward the end of the decade. Here's what's left for each player:
Fielder: Seven years, $168 million -- $24 million annually through 2020.
Kinsler: Four years, $62 million -- $16M in 2014 and 2015, $14M in 2016, $11M in 2017, and a $10M club option for 2018 ($5M buyout).
Fielder's coming off his worst full season since his rookie year, which was capped off by a disastrous postseason in all respects. He was one of the biggest culprits in another Tigers run that came up short, and it set up an arduous road to redemption, considering the cash commitment remaining.
Kinsler has lost some of his shine, going from a 30-30 year in 2011 to 13 homers and 11 steals in 2013. There also seems to be a bit of De Aza Frustration among the Texas fan base because Kinsler is susceptible to pickoffs, but he's still earning his money in that sum-is-greater-than-the-parts way that is difficult to notice. Throw in the frontloaded nature of Kinsler's contract, and he's a better bet to age effectively into the final years of his deal than Fielder.
On top of that, Kinsler's a good glove at second, and Miguel Cabrera probably can play a far better first than what Fielder showed last year. Throw in Jose Iglesias for Jhonny Peralta and any third baseman with a pulse over Cabrera, and that's a drastic infield overhaul since late July.
And now with the specter of Fielder's albatross eliminated, the Tigers now can splurge on a contract that didn't seem available to them before, whether it's a Max Scherzer extension or something else.
That wasn't supposed to happen when Mike Ilitch opened his wallet at the last minute and signed Fielder to a ridiculous long-term contract to solve a short-term problem. His Tigers had to eat a non-negligible amount of money -- Kinsler's kind of a $92 million man now -- but the the next four years weren't nearly as much of a problem as the final three.