According to CBS and Jon Heyman, the Rangers and Tigers have agreed to swap Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler.
I'M AWAKE. I'M AWAKE.
Every year, man. Every year, there's a trade or signing that pantses us in front of the assembly. Last year around this time, the Marlins and Blue Jays swapped places like something out of an '80s comedy. This year, it's Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler.
Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler.
Just type it a few times. It makes your fingers go numb. It makes no sense. It makes so much sense. Let's look for the ways it makes sense.
First: Fielder's contract was poison. More importantly, he was going to be poison in Detroit unless he single-handedly won a World Series by himself. If he did the Barry Zito, overcoming the expectations and failures to have a single defining moment in the postseason, everyone would forget about the combined .196/.267/.239 line in 101 plate appearances for the Tigers in the playoffs. That's possible. I wouldn't want to spend $168 million to find out, which is what Fielder has left over seven years.
Second: The Rangers and Fielder have always made sense. It made sense at the time, considering the Rangers have struggled to find a long-term solution since Rafael Palmeiro left (while generously bequeathing young first basemen to the rest of baseball). Fielder at Arlington, even considering the down seasons, is going to be fun to watch.
Third: Kinsler is a nice hitter who was going to get worse before he got better, and he was blocking a younger, cheaper player. The Rangers needed an elegant solution, something that would turn a logjam into an improvement. Considering that Kinsler would probably get close to the same money (four years, $62 million) if he were a free agent today, he was always tradable. And considering the Rangers' need for a first baseman or corner outfielder, maybe we should have seen this coming.
Fourth: We should not have seen this coming.
Fifth: With the cash coming back in the deal, the Rangers are essentially giving up Kinsler to sign Fielder to what's going to be something like a seven year, $76 million deal. That's an oversimplification, and it's guessing at the money going back to Texas (edit: confirmed at $30 million). But if you're wondering why the Rangers would take on Fielder's poison contract, that puts it into perspective. Maybe this will look stupid in 10 months, but I'd rather have Fielder for seven years and $70 million than Jose Dariel Abreu for similar money.
Sixth: The Tigers saving any substantial money at all makes this a win for them. They owed Fielder $168 million. Now they owe Kinsler $62 million, and they've probably sent a large chunk of cash to Texas. That means the Tigers will still have more money for Max Scherzer. OR ROBINSON CANO. With Kinsler moving to third and Miguel Cabrera moving to first. JUST A HUNCH.
Seventh: No, the money is probably for Scherzer. But Fielder's contract was one of the worst ever from almost the very moment it was signed. It still helped the Tigers to a pennant (and, less effectively, to another ALCS), but it was going to be a black hole for the next seven years. It was going to be Vernon Wells without the angels/Angels saving them from their own mistake, only twice as awful.
Eighth: I think I ate the rind of some cheese that I found in my trunk, or we're all on the series finale of St. Elsewhere, possibly both. This can't be real.
Ninth: The Tigers should get better defensively. Cabrera moves to first, right? He has to. The bold gamble was bold and gambly, but there's no reason to keep Cabrera at third now. The Tigers get better all around. It's one thing to have the league's worst-fielding first baseman, but it's another thing to have him play third base while the second-worst plays first.
Tenth: There was no other way for the Rangers to get power in this market. Once they lost out on Abreu, their options were Curtis Granderson (about the same cost as Fielder, with the loss of a first-round pick), Mike Morse (who isn't good), and … Corey Hart? Robinson Cano, who will be a contract just as awful as a full-priced Fielder one day? There weren't any good options.
Except for the craziest option.
Which still might not be a good option. Goodness, the Rangers are taking on a risk here. But it makes sense. It's not dull! And it makes sense. The Rangers are gambling the next three or four years of Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus, and Profar are going to be better than the next three or four years of Kinsler, whatever the extra money going to Fielder would buy, and whatever they could have nabbed for Andrus or Profar.
I'm not sure if I take that risk. But it was getting slow around here. I'm glad the Rangers did.
For more on the WAIT NO WHAT from the Rangers' perspective, please visit Lone Star Ball
For more on the YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS WHAT from the Tigers' perspective, please visit Bless You Boys