COMMENTARY | Of all the player transactions made this offseason, the one that created the biggest buzz and made the most headlines throughout baseball is the Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler exchange Nov. 20 between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.
The Tigers shed an albatross contract when they sent Fielder to the Rangers, even though they included $30 million in the trade. The Tigers received a three-time All-Star second baseman in Kinsler and also freed up a spot at first base for two-time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera to move there.
On paper, this seems like an excellent trade for Detroit. But did the Tigers give up the best first baseman in the American League to get all of that? Quite possibly.
Here is why:
* Run producer: In eight full seasons, Fielder has won three Silver Slugger Awards for being the best hitting first baseman in the league. His average season consists of 35 homers, 107 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. The Rangers said they wanted to upgrade their offense, and they found their guy. Fielder's left-handed power stroke and the short porch in right field at Rangers Ballpark are a match made in heaven.
* Way on base: Fielder is known for his eye at the plate. His career on-base percentage is .389 with four years in a row (20009-12) over .400. Teams have pitched around him, but he should be receiving fewer intentional walks and more pitches to hit with slugger Adrian Beltre batting behind him.
* Iron man: Fielder has been one of the most durable players in baseball in the last eight years. He has never played fewer than 157 games in a full season, and he has played 162 games in four of the last five years. In the one year during that period where he didn't play 162, he played 161.
* Prime time: At 29, Fielder should be primed for the best years of his career. Fielder's power numbers have been so good in the past that he hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs in 2013 for Detroit and those were considered disappointing numbers for him. He has 285 career homers before age 30 and will likely add several to that total before his birthday in May.
* Fielder can field: Rangers fans have expressed some concern about Fielder's defensive skills, but don't discount his ability to play first base just because of his size (5-11, 275 pounds). Fielder will probably never win a Gold Glove, but his numbers show him to be an adequate "fielder." He has finished in the top five in the league in double plays turned six times, putouts seven times, assists three times, and fielding percentage twice.
If the Tigers move Miguel Cabrera to first base, which they will likely do, and if Mark Teixeira of the Yankees is healthy in 2014, Fielder will have some serious competition for the title of best first baseman in the league. But, for now, that honor goes to Fielder.
Brian Honea is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas, and a lifelong follower of the Texas Rangers.
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- Prince Fielder
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