"Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast."
Ron Burgundy's infamous quote from the movie Anchorman perfectly summarizes the events of this evening. Out of nowhere, the Tigers and Texas Rangers have apparently agreed to a blockbuster trade. Prince Fielder is heading to the Lone Star state, while Ian Kinsler will solve the Tigers' second base problem.
Unfortunately, Prince's departure leaves a Prince Fielder-sized hole at first base and in the middle of the Tigers' lineup in 2014. What does the deal mean for the Tigers in 2014 and beyond? Let's take a look.
Offensively, the Tigers have just parted ways with one of the biggest bats in baseball. Despite a down year in 2013, Fielder is a career .286/.389/.527 hitter with 25 or more home runs in each of his eight full seasons in the major leagues. His 25 home runs in 2013 were a career low, but it's premature to say that it was anything more than a blip on the radar for one of the best hitters in baseball.
Kinsler has been an above average hitter for a second baseman throughout his career, hitting .273/.349/.454 across eight major league seasons. Here's what I had to say about Kinsler when I profiled him last week:
Since he was called up to the majors in 2006, Kinsler is tied for fourth among all second basemen with 29.1 fWAR. He and Brandon Phillips are the only two second basemen with at least 150 homers and 150 stolen bases during that span. Kinsler has had two 30/30 seasons, in 2009 and 2011. He has excellent plate discipline, with a career 9.6% walk rate and 22.5% O-swing percentage.
What does this mean for the rest of the lineup? Given that we know practically nothing about Brad Ausmus, any suggestions are nothing more than a shot in the dark at this point. One of Kinsler or Austin Jackson will likely lead off, with anyone ranging from Kinsler, Jackson, Torii Hunter, or someone outside the organization hitting second. Miguel Cabrera will almost certainly bat third with Victor Martinez behind him. After that, what happens? Does Hunter hit fifth? Nick Castellanos? Someone else that Dave Dombrowski has on his radar? Regardless, it's safe to say that this will be a much different looking lineup in 2014.
On the other side of the ball, things could get interesting. With Fielder off first base, the Tigers have much more flexibility defensively. Miguel Cabrera could slide back over to first, freeing up Nick Castellanos to return to the infield at third. Victor Martinez could play first base on a more regular basis, which would give the Tigers increased lineup flexibility at the designated hitter spot. Jordan Lennerton, who was protected by the Tigers for this year's Rule 5 draft, could see some action as well.
The biggest -- and still unknown -- component of this deal is the financial flexibility that the Tigers have. Depending on the amount of money they send to the Rangers, this opens up the payroll to re-sign Cabrera and Max Scherzer to long-term extensions. Austin Jackson, Doug Fister, and Alex Avila could be in line to get extended as well, though I'd imagine the Tigers have had a few of those guys in mind for a while now. Kinsler is owed $16 million in each of the next two seasons, with a combined $25 million due in 2016 and 2017. He has a $12 million team option for 2018 when he will be 36 years old. Fielder is currently signed through the 2020 season at $24 million per year.
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