Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Prince Fielder signs with Tigers; 9 years, $214 million

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Folks, there are reports all over the Internet that former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder has signed a deal with the Detroit Tigers; the deal is reported as being $214 million over the course of nine years, or an average $23.78 million per year.

See this story from Ken Rosenthal for further details:

Here’s a relevant quote:

On the long list of Scott Boras shockers, this one ranks near the top.

Boras’ top free-agent client, first baseman Prince Fielder, has agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Tigers, according to major-league sources.

Fielder’s deal with the Tigers does not include an opt-out provision, a source said.

Tigers general manager David Dombrowski recently told that Fielder, “doesn’t fit for us. He’s looking for a long-term deal and that just doesn’t fit.”

Either Dombrowski was shading the truth, or Tigers owner Mike Ilitch — who has worked well with Boras in the past — made a last-minute call to sign Fielder.

So, see, it’s not just me who’s shocked.  Rosenthal is obviously shocked, too.

The reason this deal surprised so many people, including me, is because of how long it took on the one hand (as we’re only about a month away from when pitchers and catchers must report to Spring Training) while on the other hand, the team that ended up landing Fielder — the Tigers — wasn’t even on the radar screen until now.  (This last bit is very reminiscent of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s pursuit of Albert Pujols; no one on the outside of the negotiations had any idea that the Angels were interested in Pujols, much less that they’d lay out big money for him.)

At any rate, the Tigers’ plans apparently include having Fielder play some first base and DH other days; they already have a first baseman in Miguel Cabrera (who hits from the right side, and is a power hitter), but Cabrera is no better defensively than Fielder and presumably wouldn’t mind DHing now and again.

Now, as a Brewers fan, I wasn’t surprised at all to see that Fielder is moving on.  It was obvious that he didn’t want to re-sign here; he had an opportunity to do that last year, and even at the end of this year, he had the opportunity to accept arbitration and come back for another year — Brewers set-up man Francisco Rodriguez (“K-Rod,” one of the best closers in the game), decided to do this even though the Brewers have a particularly good closer in John Axford — one who set team records last year and one who isn’t being paid very much.  (Axford should be getting a lot more than he is; at this point, he’s making just over the major league minimum and that really seems unfair.  But I digress.)

This situation has happened before, albeit with C.C. Sabathia.  Sabathia helped the Brewers get to the 2008 playoffs; the Brewers clinched the “wild card” spot on the final day of the season, and they wouldn’t have done so without Sabathia’s stellar performance (he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts with the Brewers).  But Sabathia, as good as he was, was a half-season rental; Fielder was developed by the Brewers farm system and his entire career (six full seasons and part of a seventh) was spent in Milwaukee up until now.

Still, unlike Ryan Braun, who accepted a contract below market value in order to stay in Milwaukee because he apparently likes the stability of knowing he’ll be financially solvent (good thing, too, but other than Evan Longoria, there isn’t a single player in MLB who’s anywhere near as interested in his long-term financial future as Braun), Fielder obviously wanted to go wherever he’d get the most money.  And he does have ties to Detroit; his father played there, and Fielder took batting practice there as a pre-teen — part of the “Fielder legend” says that Fielder hit several HRs in batting practice when he was twelve, though I’m unsure that’s factually correct.  (Fielder has enormous power, and even as a child he probably had a great deal of it also.  But Fielder himself cast aspersions on some of these legends while he was in Milwaukee, saying, in effect, “Don’t believe everything you hear, but isn’t it a nice story?”)

I just hope that whatever Fielder is getting out of this deal is worth it to him, because it’s one thing to be a “Big Man On Campus” like he was for the Brewers; it’s another to become the highest-paid player on the team, as he will be for the Tigers.  The media in Detroit isn’t as friendly as the media in Milwaukee, and even if they were, Fielder’s contract will make him much more of a target than he’s ever been in Milwaukee.  This is something he’s not likely to understand until he’s lived with it for a while; I just hope the learning curve for him won’t be too steep along the way.

Granted, Fielder is a big man (in many senses, including his heart) and I’m sure he can handle it.  But it will be much more difficult for his family and friends to deal with the media on days where he goes 0 for 4 with a couple of Ks (even a guy who strikes out as little as Fielder does, proportionately, has a few days like this a year) than it’s ever been in Milwaukee.

All I can say now is, “Enjoy the contract, Prince.  Play well.  And don’t forget your fans in Milwaukee.”  Because assuredly, we will not forget about you anytime too soon.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 25, 2012 at 12:05 am

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