There are too many layers to the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers and Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers to write a single, coherent article in summary. Therefore, I’m breaking it up. I wrote about Fielder’s power profile and projection here. I wrote about Kinsler’s complicated aging profile and skill set here.
For the Rangers, this deal is a win right away. Fielder had a tough 2013, but that shouldn’t unduly influence an objective reading of his tea leaves. He’s at the age, and of the size, that invites certain assumptions on the part of those who analyze him. Because his value is tied entirely to his offensive output, an off year with the bat starts to look like catastrophe in motion. Because he’s fairly fat, and has succeeded unconventionally up to this point, and is turning 30, any struggle looks to some like the beginning of a long, possibly violent decline phase, even if in reality, it’s just a blip.
Those are unfair perceptions, though. Fielder could bounce back from what was still not a bad 2013, and in fact, is a better bet to have a few good years in front of him than, say Albert Pujols, on age alone. There’s reason for concern, but Fielder should remain a good player until the $6-million annual payments from the Tigers begin in 2016, helping defray the Rangers’ cost of retaining Fielder and lightening the burden of his contract. Even in what some call a lost, miserable season, Fielder hit .279/.362/.457 with 25 home runs and 36 doubles. His .290 True Average (TAv, a holistic offensive stat scaled to batting average, from the brilliant minds at Baseball Prospectus) was 33 points clear of the league median figure. He remains a productive player, even a middle-of-the-order hitter.
The primary question, then, isn’t whether this deal makes Texas’s offense better. It does. With Alex Rios, Elvis Andrus, Kinsler and Adrian Beltre as the main offensive assets prior to Fielder’s arrival, they leaned pretty far to the right, balance-wise. Fielder is a left-handed bat, and a good one.
No, the better question facing the Rangers now is: What’s next?
The answer could be really simple. It could be that Jurickson Profar will take over at second base, and blossom into a very good player, and that will be that. Beltre-Andrus-Profar-Fielder has a chance to be the league’s best all-around infield, right away, if Profar is really ready for a regular job. There’s huge variance there, and therefore, some inherent risk. Profar struggled as a rookie in 2013, largely thanks to Ron Washington’s baffling handling of him. If he can right the ship as an everyday player at a position he’s played in the past, the Rangers have a juggernaut in the making. They’ll need to spend some money to round out their outfield, after the departure of David Murphy, but Leonys Martin and Alex Rios are a fine start to that corps, too. The Rangers continue to come up whenever the name of free-agent catcher Brian McCann does, too, which would make the offense scary-good.
On the other hand, the Rangers could keep trading middle infielders. Profar would be a fine centerpiece in a deal for David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. Andrus might draw a very handsome return from the loaded St. Louis Cardinals (loaded but for their grease stain at shortstop). In either event, the Rangers could then turn to their top prospect, second baseman Rougned Odor, sometime during the season to come. He’s not quite MLB-ready, but he’s a very solid hitter and above-average fielder at second, at least in the long run.
It will be fascinating to see what ripples this splashy move makes. Fielder’s addition is definitely a welcome, positive one. The Rangers are pretty clear favorites in the AL West, at this moment, as far as I’m concerned. If they’re done, though, it will be a mild surprise and disappointment.Next post: The Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler Trade: What Matters Most for Detroit Tigers is What This Means
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