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Fielder vs Kinsler: which player is more valuable?

The Tigers lose power and a middle of the order bat with Fielder leaving, but they gain speed, defense, and payroll flexibility.

Kevork Djansezian

In a direct comparison between Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler, apart from salary considerations, shows that the Tigers will be losing quite a bit of power with their clean up hitter going to Texas. In return, they are getting a very good hitter, though with much less power, as well as speed and defense at an important position of need.

Here is a direct comparison of the two players' numbers for the 2013 season:

Fielder 29 .279 .362 .457 .819 .358 82 25 106 1 -13 2.2
Kinsler 31 ,277 .344 .413 .747 .334 85 13 72 15 +11 2.5

The numbers in the 2013 chart show a distinct advantage for Fielder in the power department, even in an off year for him, and still better overall batting production. But Kinsler's defense and speed more than compensated. When we look at two years, 2012 and 2013, Fielder's advantage at the plate is much greater.

Fielder and Kinsler, 2012- 2013

Fielder 29 .295 .387 .491 .876 .378 165 55 213 2 -17 7.1
Kinsler 31 .266 .334 .418 .752 .330 190 32 144 36 +12 5.5

There may be legitimate cause for concern, that taking Fielder's bat, and Jhonny Peralta's bat out of the Tiger lineup will leave too large of an offensive deficit to make up. Let's say that Kinsler simply replaces Infante at second base, with the same offensive and defensive productivity. Over a two year span, Kinsler's 5.5 WAR is ahead of Infante's 3.3 total, and his .330 wOBA bests Infante's .327. In that case, the deficit from losing Fielder and Peralta, the team's second and third most productive hitters, is very real.

But reality is that both Infante and Peralta hit a fair amount better than their career numbers in 2013, so some regression could be expected there, even if they both returned. Chances are that the upgrade defensively plus speed gained with Jose Iglesias at shortstop, and not Prince Fielder at first base, will not be enough to make up for the lost offense. The Tigers will need to do more to make up the deficit.

Here's where the real benefit of the trade comes into play. Money. Let's face it- we all knew that Fielder's nine year contract had great potential to be an albatross before it expired. But as the Tigers were staring down the barrel of a payroll that was set to top $ 160 million before they replaced or resigned any of the eight free agents at the end of the 2013 season, it was better to make an adjustment sooner than later, if they could.

So here is a look at the salary chart showing the Tigers with Fielder, with Kinsler, and the differences, year by year through the end of Prince Fielder's contract.

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Total
Fielder 24M 24M 24M 24M 24M 24M 24M 168M
Kinsler 16M 16M 14M 11M 10M* 0 0 67M
Payment to Texas 0 0 6M 6M 6M 6M 6M 30M
Current total 16M 16M 20M 17M 16M 6M 6M 97M
Difference +8M +8M +4M +7M +8M +18M +18M +71M
AAV** 19.7M 19.7M 19.7M 19.7M 9.3 4.3 4.3

* Ian Kinsler's contract has a $ 10 million club option for 2018 with a $ 5 million buyout

* The average annual value of multi year contracts, including a buyout and payments to Texas, will be averaged over the life of the contract for luxury tax calculations.

The monetary impact of the trade is that the Tigers save $ 8 million on their payroll in each of the next two seasons. As time goes by, the club will save even more, particularly in the last two years of Fielder's contract. How this money is spent must be considered when analyzing the trade. If it allows the team to resign Max Scherzer or Miguel Cabrera, or maybe bring in another player for the next two seasons, that's a pretty significant impact.

The Tigers did well to sign Prince Fielder, when the emergency was created by the loss of Victor Martinez in January of 2012. It turns out to be an expensive two years, but very productive seasons when he helped them reach the LCS twice and the World Series once. But over the full length of the deal, they just were not going to be in a position to keep Prince and everyone else as well.

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