Thursday, November 14, 2013

Detroit Tigers position by position review: first base

Prince Fielder saw action in every game the Detroit Tigers played in 2013. That is an amazing stat, and proves that Fielder is at the very least ready to go out and play every day. However, baseball is just a job to him. he does not have the passion for the game a guy with his contract really should. He also does himself a large disservice by how he speaks to the press and by extension the fans. Detroit is a working class sports town, with a ultra loyal fan base but once that fan base turns on you things can get very uncomfortable just ask Juan Gonzales.Prince isn't to that point yet, but his personal problems have led him down a dark path in 2013 and while some Detroit fans will give him the benefit of the doubt it is using up all his good will in Detroit. That on top of the payroll situation is why the Tigers are listening to trade offers for him this off season.

That makes first base a position of some concern for the Tigers this off season. They do have other options, but before we get to all of that let's look at what Prince did. He hit .279, with 25 home runs and 106 RBI. All of those numbers were a decline form what he did in 2012. He has also played in every game since coming to Detroit and that is huge, but what he does in the post season is of up most importance because this is a team trying to win a World Series title. In the two ALCS he has helped this team get to he is hitting just .205 with no home runs and just 1 RBI. In two ALDS since dawning the Tigers colors he is hitting just .231 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. In the 2012 World Series he hit just .071 with no homers or RBI. It is a large part of the reason why the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants.

What happens in October matters most, and what happens last is what sticks in the minds of the front office and the fans. Prince's massive nine year 214 million dollar deal was always going to be ugly one day, but that was not suppose to be in year two of the deal. The contract is too large given what this guy brings to the table, an average first baseman in the field and a guy with a ton of power in the regular season. I never thought he was a good fit for this team, and until they win it all and/or Prince wins the MVP I will continue to think that.

The Tigers have a few internal options if they unload Prince via trade this off season. They could move Victor Martinez to first from DH, along with moving Miguel Cabrera toward a more full time DH role to keep him healthy for the playoffs. Those moves could be accompanied by bringing Nick Castellanos to the big team as the every day third baseman his natural position. The Tigers could also move Cabrera back to first base along with bringing Castellanos or with a free agent upgrade at third. It is probably time to see what Castellanos can do every day on the big team, but he is only 21 so delaying that till 2015 could be a very solid move.

It seems pretty unlikely the Tigers will be able to rid themselves of this ridiculously bad contract.They could go the Damion Easily route and just pay him off, or trade him and eat a big chunk of salary but none of that helps the current payroll situation.

Here is my biggest concern...How does this fan base react if the Fielder deal forces this team to trade 2013 Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer to upgrade at another position? If Prince thinks he heard a lot of boos this past off season the crowd at Comerca Park can be quite vocal...again ask Juan Gonzales. And that was before this team was good.

We shall see how this plays out.

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