Prince Fielder waves goodbye to the Brewers, the team with which he spent his entire career, to join the Tigers, his father's longtime team.
By David Wilson
Well we’ve been meaning to get back to this for a while, but we’ve needed the right moment to get back into it. The conclusion of the Prince Fielder saga affected so many teams, including several teams in the mid-Atlantic area we focus on, that this seemed like as good a time as ever (our very own Brian Kubasik may agree with that, but I’ll let him tell you about that).
But first, let me just say welcome back. Lots has happened in the world since we’ve left you. Not much has happened to us, so let’s get into it:
We’ll start with what it means for the Tigers. It means Detroit now gets to watch not one, but two of the best first basemen in the game night in and night for what could potentially be the next nine years.
It also means the Tigers are without a doubt the favorites to repeat as AL Central champions and probably the favorite in what is now a loaded American League. Of course the Yankees and Red Sox are always contenders and the revamped Angels are going to be a popular pick after all the big moves they made, but the Tigers cruised through the Central and they got the second best free agent on the market. They’re the team to look for in the AL, but that’s going to be a fun league to watch all season.
It also apparently means that Fielder was fine with DHing all along. Or when the market soured he had to suck it up. Or Miguel Cabrera offered to DH. That remains to be seen.
First of all, I’m grateful that I had the hours between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. off Tuesday and the room to myself for the latter half of that time period. This let me follow the crazy saga that was the final two hours of Prince Fielder drama.
This was one of the strangest and most telling coverage of a free agent I can recall. Even with Albert Pujols’ and LeBron James’ signing, we had some sort of idea where they were going as time wound down. Not with Prince.
I guess the right place to start is Sunday night. At this time it appeared to be between the Nationals and Rangers. Washington had been the front-runner for some time, but Texas was still there.
Then two unfounded rumors began swirling on Twitter. One had Fielder on his way to Arlington. One had him on his way to DC. It turned out neither was right.
Fast forward to Tuesday. The rumor of Prince heading to Texas hadn’t been brought up again by its initial source while Scott Swaim, who started the Washington rumor, stood by his reporting and said the deal had already been signed. Then, John Heyman confirmed it. Prince Fielder had signed an eight-year deal in Washington.
Except the Jon Heyman that you may know from CBS, spells his name without an “h.” John Heyman was a fake account. Minutes later, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported that Fielder was nearing a deal with the Tigers. Then Jon Heyman confirmed it. Prince was heading to Detroit.
We’ll start with the local focus. First of all, I don’t think the Orioles were ever a legitimate suitor. Though Prince would have put up some big time numbers at Camden Yards, there’s no way Fielder was going to leave a perennial contender in the Brewers for bottom-dwelling Baltimore.
The bigger impact is on the Nationals. Washington appeared to be the front-runner the entire way and at several points Tuesday afternoon, it seemed as if the Nats were on the verge of sealing the deal. Until they didn’t.
For the Nats though, it’s not the end of the world. As I stated on my Twitter minutes after the deal was signed, the Nationals are still in position to contend. Maybe not for the World Series, but I’d still say they have a great shot at winning one of the two Wild Cards, they’re just not quite at that elite level that signing Fielder would have put them at. They’re probably a year or two away from that. Now the team needs to find a long-term center fielder and extend Ryan Zimmerman with the money they could have thrown at Fielder. But that discussion is for another time.
Another interesting thought for Washington is that the the DH (or should I say the NL’s lack of one) cost the Nationals Prince. The Nats were willing to go to seven years, but no higher. A seven-year deal would have made Prince 34 at the end of the deal. Fine, first basemen play until they’re 34, but 36? Fielder isn’t exactly a Gold Glover now. At 34, his fielding will have likely declined enough that he’d already be a defensive liability. At 36? I don’t think the Nationals wanted to see what he was like in the field then.
And last, but not least, the Rangers find themselves in sort of a similar place to the Nationals, except they’re still ready to contend. They already brought in Yu Darvish and now can keep Josh Hamilton long-term with the money they could have thrown at Prince.
And don’t worry Rangers fans, just because I didn’t mention you earlier for teams contending in the AL doesn’t mean I forgot about you. Just know it’s not going to be easy. But I’m not sure if Fielder would have made that any easier.