There were any number of reasons why nobody thought the Detroit Tigers were going to sign Prince Fielder, but chief among them was the simple fact that the Detroit Tigers already had a pretty good first baseman: Miguel Cabrera.
So when the Detroit Tigers did sign Prince Fielder -- or announce their agreement to sign him, anyway -- we immediately began to wonder what the Tigers would do with two first basemen. And we were somewhat nonplussed upon the news that management was/is seriously considering playing Cabrera at third base, where he's not played for even a moment since 2008. For good reason.
As the New York Times' Benjamin Hoffman notes, the Tigers' infield defense could be brutal:
The Tigers will now feature a first baseman whose listed weight is 275 pounds and a third baseman listed as 240 pounds. Fielder, who is 5 feet 11 inches, may be telling the truth, but the 6-4 Cabrera certainly appears heavier than that.
On defense, Fielder has always been a very good hitter. Using the advanced fielding metric of Ultimate Zone Rating, he has been below average as a first baseman in all but one of his full seasons.
The true butcher of the pair, however, is Cabrera. Already ill suited to the defensive rigors of first base, Cabrera will be returning to the position he manned, poorly, during his time with the Marlins.
Honestly, I still can't figure out what in hell the Tigers are doing. It would be one thing if Víctor Martínez were going to be around this season. But he's not, and the Tigers don't have a ready-made DH to fill Martinez's slot. So why not simply give that job to Cabrera or Fielder?
Well, I'm fairly sure the Tigers have promised Fielder plenty of work at first base. And they probably are leery of turning Cabrera into a full-time DH so early in his career (he's 28, just a year older than Fielder).
So why not let both of them play first base? While sharing the DH duties, too? This would serve the dual purpose of a) alleviating some of the strain from those BIG bodies, and b) keeping Cabrera the hell away from third base.
Granted, there is one other issue; if Cabrera doesn't play third base this year, it's even more difficult to send him to third base in 2013, when Martinez presumably returns to the lineup, along with his $13 million salary.
My guess? The Tigers wind up trading Martinez, and eating a big chunk of his contract. Which we'll simply add to the many millions by which the franchise is over-paying to feature Prince Fielder for nine years.