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Does the Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder Trade Make Sense for Texas Rangers?

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COMMENTARY | On Nov. 20, the Texas Rangers sent their longest-tenured player, second baseman Ian Kinsler, to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder.

This is the very definition of a blockbuster trade. It involves two players who have been All-Stars multiple times but were relative disappointments for their respective teams in 2013. One albatross contract was exchanged for another.

Kinsler will be 32 in June and has been with the Rangers since 2006. He was a big piece of the two World Series teams in 2010 and 2011. For eight years, he has been a fixture at second base for the Rangers. He has hit as many has 32 home runs in a season but had only 13 last year, and he also has an injury history.

Fielder's 9-year, $214 million contract he signed with Detroit two years ago has been much-maligned. He hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs in 2013, but that is considered a down year for him. The Rangers are gambling that Fielder can return to his pre-2013 form and be the hitter he was when he won 3 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting 4 times. Detroit is sending $30 million to the Rangers along with Fielder, who turns 30 in May.

This trade makes sense for both teams, but especially for the Rangers. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said immediately after the season ended that the team's priority was upgrading the offense, and the acquisition of Fielder does the trick. The Rangers get a slugger who has 285 career homers and has hit as many as 50 in a season. He also has a season high of 141 RBIs. Fielder's left-handed power stroke is perfect for that short porch in right field at Rangers Ballpark. Fielder and Adrian Beltre will provide the 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup the Rangers were lacking for much of last season.

This trade also relieves a logjam in the Rangers' middle infield. Moving Kinsler opens up a spot for super prospect Jurickson Profar, who played the role of utility player as a rookie in 2013 and struggled at the plate. He is a natural shortstop but would become the Rangers' regular second baseman if he wins the job in spring training.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to get back on track. Look what it did for Manny Ramirez a few years ago when he went from the Red Sox to the Dodgers. The Rangers were major suitors for Fielder's services 2 years ago when he became a free agent. He liked Texas so much that he approved a trade to the Rangers even though Texas included among the teams in his partial no-trade clause. The new surroundings might prove to be what Fielder needed to revive his career.

The trade makes sense for Detroit, too, because with Fielder gone it can move Miguel Cabrera from third base to first base. Kinsler might also thrive in his new environment. In 2013, he endured criticisms from Ranger fans about frequently popping up, getting picked off base, and an overall lack of hustle. This change should do him good, too.

Fielder will be a defensive liability at first base but the Rangers are willing to sacrifice a little defense for the offensive pop that he brings. Mitch Moreland, who has been the Rangers' regular first baseman for three years, could now serve the role of backup first baseman/outfielder/DH if he is not traded.

The Kinsler for Fielder trade sends a message to Rangers fans that the front office is serious about bringing a winner to Arlington Stadium. It's only November, so this is likely just the beginning.

Brian Honea is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas.


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