By Ashley Dunkak
News breaking about the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade made it another late night for Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski. Just a quarter to midnight, he teleconferenced with reporters and outlined how the Fielder deal went down, what Kinsler brings to the table and how the lineup changes as a result.
For starters, Dombrowski did not talk to Fielder on the phone. He called, but Fielder did not answer, and his voicemail box was full. So instead, the general manager texted. Fielder texted back, and they wished each other well.
As far as the deal itself, it seems to be a win-win considering the objectives of both teams.
“They really had made it apparent to clubs that they were more interested in trading Kinsler than [Jurickson] Profar, and they were looking for a power-hitting, middle-of-the-lineup-type bat,” Dombrowski said. “So when you looked at it it made sense from both perspectives if a deal could work out.”
Perhaps the best part of the deal for Detroit was escaping much of Fielder’s nine-year, $214 million deal. The Tigers gave the Texas Rangers $30 million in cash and took on Kinsler’s $62 million salary, saving them considerable money in the long term. The move gave the team a piece it needed since Omar Infante became a free agent, and it frees up some money to potentially help sign Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to a multi-year extension.
“For us, when we looked at it, in trying to create financial flexibility for us, but also keeping our club in a very competitive nature, we thought that this move helps us in that regard, gives us an everyday second baseman, somebody who can hit at the top of the order, but I do think it gives us more flexibility as we go forward,” Dombrowski said. “And Max is a player that we’d like to keep in our organization, and I know he’s a player that would like to stay here. We’ll see what ends up taking place, but it does give us some flexibility.”
As far as how the lineup looks different, it will likely look very different. Superstar Miguel Cabrera was originally a first baseman before moving to third in 2012 to make room for Fielder at first. Now he could go back to first. If that were the case, young prospect Nick Castellanos could move in from the outfield and play third. Or, as Dombrowski suggested, Cabrera could stay at third while designated hitter Victor Martinez goes to first.
Essentially, all that is still up in the air at this point.
“We are in a spot where Miguel can play third, Victor can play first,” Dombrowski said. “We’re not sure about Miguel’s situation. Eventually we see him as a first baseman. After what happened last year, I’m not sure of that. Would we move Castellanos back into third base? Again, that’s something we need to discuss.”
Where Fielder’s main value came with his bat, Kinsler should bring defensive stability as well as offense.
“High-quality major league player that has played well for an extended period at the major league level, gives us an everyday second baseman, good athleticism,” Dombrowski said. “He’s an all-around player. We think he’s a real steady second baseman. He’s not known for his outstanding range. He turns the double play very well. He adds good offense from the second base position.”
As for saying goodbye to Fielder, Dombrowski said the hitter will be missed for his overall RBI production.
“I know he didn’t have a real good postseason this time, but he drove in 100 runs a couple years in a row, and that’s not real easy to do,” Dombrowski said. “It’ll be a bat that we miss at times. There’s no doubt about it, but it’s also a situation where we think it works well now.”