Should the Indians React to the Tigers and Rangers Trade?


Tigers and Rangers Trade All-Stars

On Wednesday night, news broke that the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers had come to agreement on the first major mega deal of the offseason. The internet nearly broke as fans learned that the Tigers had shipped Prince Fielder to the Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Almost immediately, there was a fire storm of reactions as fans of all the teams involved, and even those not involved (Here’s looking at you Indians fans), weighed in on the ramifications.

The Trade

Oct 19, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder (28) reacts after striking out during the first inning in game six of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

As I have already noted, the Tigers and Rangers swapped Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler. The deal also involved cash considerations. The Tigers will send $30-million to Texas along with Fielder to help cover part of the remainder of his $214-million contract signed prior to the 2012 season. With $168-million still left on the deal over the course of the next seven seasons, the Rangers will only be on the hook for $138-million. It goes to show that there is still a premium when it comes to acquiring power in Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler has four years remaining on the five-year contract extension that began last season. Originally valued at $75-million, the Tigers will have to pay the remaining $62-million over the last four years of the contract. However, there is also a $5-million buyout on the 2018 club option. In total, the Tigers will payout $92-million dollars in the deal when you combine the $30-million headed to Texas and the $62-million still tied up with Kinsler.

The Impact for Both Teams

For the Rangers, they get the power bat they so desperately wanted. After losing Josh Hamilton during last year’s offseason free agent extravaganza and potentially Nelson Cruz this time around, they needed to find a way to replace that production in the middle of their lineup. However, it has come at a cost. The $138-million they will have to pay Fielder over the course of the next seven seasons is no laughing matter. That is a lot of money tied up into one player who showed noticeable signs of decline in 2013 and may not age well thanks to less than desirable weight. The Rangers have shown us time and time again, though, that they are not afraid of spending money.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the trade for the Rangers is that it finally provides top prospect Jurickson Profar with a permanent spot on the everyday roster. Profar had been relegated to part-time status filling in around the infield because there was no place to really put him. Now with Kinsler out of the picture, Profar can play everyday at second base alongside Elvis Andrus and perhaps reach his full potential.

As for the Tigers, this deal made too much sense. While the idea of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back-to-back in the lineup is good in theory, it simply raised too many issues that could no longer be ignored. The financial restraints of Fielder’s $214-million contract are gone. Quite frankly, paying only $30-million of his remaining deal is almost a steal.

More importantly, though, the Tigers can now move Cabrera back across the infield to first base, thus improving their infield defense dramatically. The acquisition of Kinsler also addresses their second base situation, a position that has been in dire need of an upgrade for some time now. Not only that, but Kinsler is also a more well-rounded player offensively who can hit for some power, but also utilizes speed and exceptional base running ability. Neither of those were a particular area of strength for Fielder.

The Impact on the Indians

Sep 21, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Texas Rangers second basemen Ian Kinsler (5) fields a ground ball against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Understandably, fans of the Indians have been quick to react to this trade. The most common reactions have been predictable, ranging anywhere from “the Tigers catch another break” to “the sign David Murphy and then the Tigers pull of that!” Needless to say, there’s a bit of gloom and doom surrounding the Cleveland Indians right now in the Twitterverse and other corners of the internet.

The fact of the matter is that this deal should have absolutely no bearing on what the Indians do or how we should view the team as fans. As a result, we should stop acting as if the sky is falling down. It isn’t.

The biggest benefit of the Kinsler/Fielder trade for the Tigers is the massive amount of money that has instantly been freed up. Yes, they were already willing to spend money and now their pockets are even deeper, but there is no guarantee that they will use that money wisely. Afterall, they did sign Prince Fielder to a nine-year $214-million dollar contract in the first place so there is a track record of ill-advised spending here.

A second important fact to consider is that while Kinsler is a three-time all-star, he will turn 32 during the 2014 season and will be 35 by the time his contract comes to an end. There is no guarantee how long he will be able to maintain his present level of performance, which one could argue had begun to show an ever so slight decline. He has also been injury prone throughout his career thanks to his style of play so the wear and tear on his body won’t help things any.

The bottom line is that while it is tempting to demand the Indians make a big move to counter the Tigers, doing so would be foolish. The Indians are playing by a different set of rules that require them to be somewhat thrifty and take a much different approach to building a team. Mainly, they can’t just throw money at players on a yearly basis. They need to stay the course and follow their plan. If they do that, things will work out in due time.