Changes Are Afoot With The Texas Rangers, Who Swapped Ian Kinsler For Prince Fielder Last Night.
Just before seven o'clock last night, the murmurs began on Twitter: CBS' Jon Heyman casually mentioned that a blockbuster trade between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers — one circling around a swap of Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler and Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder — was a distinct possibility.
Less than a half-hour later, the trade was a done deal. And, just like that, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his Tigers counterpart, Dave Dombrowski, completed what likely will end up being the biggest trade of the Major League Baseball offseason, almost completely under the radar.
In the short-term, the deal makes a lot of sense for both teams: With the swap, the Tigers are able to shed a contract that has looked like a bad idea from the moment it was signed two years ago, while at the same time making room for a hobbled Miguel Cabrera to return to the position of first base instead of third. In Kinsler, the Tigers also get one of the most underrated players in baseball to fill a position that has been something of a black hole for them the past few seasons. For the Rangers, the trade gives the team's offense an anchor for the middle of its lineup — something the team desperately needed while falling just short of the playoffs this year. Furthermore, the trade clears the Rangers' readily apparent log jam of talented middle infielders.
The long-term implications of the deal are a bit more murky, though, especially for the Rangers. Fielder is owed $168 million over the remaining seven years of his deal — of which the Tigers will pay $30 million — while Kinsler is owed $62 million over the remaining four years of his. The Rangers are assuming a lot of payroll to acquire a player coming off the worst season of his career and whose body type raises questions about his long-term durability.
That being said, though, Fielder hasn't missed a game in the last three seasons and has never played less than 157 games since coming to the majors full-time in 2006. He may prove to be the exception to the rule of hulking first basemen breaking down in their mid-30s.
The change in scenery should help Fielder bounce back statistically, too. He's moving from Comerica Park, the 17th best home run park for left-handed hitters, to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the sixth best.
At the very least, the trade should ensure that the Rangers will be better in 2014 than they were in 2013. Pairing Rangers super-prospect Jurickson Profar at second base with Fielder at first is a major step up from the Kinsler and Mitch Moreland combination that the team showcased last season, for sure.
If ESPN's David Schoenfield is right though, Profar may not get his chance: Schoenfield speculates that this move means the Rangers may sign Robinson Cano and trade Profar for outfield help.
But, whatever happens, and no matter how much better the Rangers may get, this winter will still be bittersweet: Kinsler, for all of his pop-up tendencies and frustrations, will go down in the end as one the greatest Rangers ever. He will be missed.
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