The Detroit Tigers agreed to trade slugger Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports on Wednesday night.
The particulars of the deal are being finalized. The Tigers are expected to offset $30 million of Fielder’s contract. As a free agent two years ago, Fielder signed with the Tigers for $214 million over nine years, the fifth-largest contract in baseball history. Seven years and $168 million remain on that contract. In essence, the Rangers will pay Fielder $138 million over seven years, or about $19.7 million per season.
He'd take over at first base and bat in the middle of the lineup for the Rangers, who last winter lost Josh Hamilton to free agency and this winter could lose Nelson Cruz. Once an offensive force, the Rangers were just above average in 2013.
The Tigers' payroll had risen to nearly $150 million, and as a result they'd considered moving several players – Fielder and AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer among them. Scherzer will be a free agent after the 2014 season and Miguel Cabrera, their back-to-back AL MVP, can be a free agent after the 2015 season. If they were to re-sign both, they’d have to offload some contract, and Fielder’s was easily the largest.
Cabrera, a below-average defender who moved to third base when Fielder was signed, presumably would return to first base. Nick Castellanos, a 21-year-old former first-round pick who played 11 games in the big leagues last season, is most likely to take over at third base.
Kinsler, 31, is a three-time All-Star who will fill a hole at second for the Tigers. He hit 32 home runs in 2011 and has 32 since. He is under contract for four more years, over which he is guaranteed $62 million. On the rise just two years ago, when they reached – and lost in – the World Series in consecutive Octobers, the Rangers twice have finished behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West. They lost in the wild-card game two seasons ago and in a tie-breaking Game 163 last season.
The Tigers were believed to be players for free agent second baseman Robinson Cano. Instead, they get Kinsler, which could lead to speculation that the Rangers may jump in on Cano. More likely, they have cleared a position for Jurickson Profar, the 20-year-old infielder and top prospect who batted .234 in 85 games for them last season.
While Fielder is one of the most prolific home run hitters in the game, he tailed off to 25 – and a .279 batting average – last season in Detroit. He followed that by batting .225 with no home runs and no RBIs in 11 postseason games.
In the aftermath of the ALCS, which the Tigers lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games, Fielder stirred the ire of many in Detroit with comments that suggested he was not devastated by his performance or the result.
"It’s not really tough for me," Fielder said at the time. "It's over. I’ve got kids to take care of. I’ve got things I’ve got to take care of. For me, it’s over, bro."
The trade will fuel speculation the Tigers, two years after committing to the massive contract, feared that Fielder’s body would not hold up for the length of the contract. Fielder has missed one game in the past five years, however, and that durability was cited often following the signing.
The trade was first reported by CBSSports.com.