Fielder to Tigers: 9 years, $214 million

The Tigers spent a week reacting to Victor Martinez’s season-ending left knee injury. Their eventual reaction was big enough to be worthy of a Prince.

After supposedly looking for a short-term solution to the void in the middle of their order, the Tigers went big, physically and financially, with All-Star slugger Prince Fielder. On Tuesday, the two sides agreed to terms on a nine-year contract worth $214 million.

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBSSports.com first reported the talks and ensuing agreement. A source confirmed the terms to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

The Tigers have not commented on the reports. The team has a policy of not commenting on reported deals until the players involved have passed physicals.

The move caught the rest of baseball by surprise, not so much regarding the Tigers’ interest but by the lengths they pursued Fielder to get a deal done. What was expected to be a short-term replacement became a cornerstone acquisition, reuniting Fielder with the team he followed as a child.

With a nine-year deal, Fielder would be under contract with Detroit through 2020. Even then, however, he’ll be 36 years old, which made a long-term deal for the 27-year-old an intriguing one. That intrigue just wasn’t expected to include the Tigers.

Until Martinez tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in a training mishap a week and a half ago, the Tigers were set at designated hitter. Martinez hit .330 with 103 RBIs last year to help lead Detroit to its first division title in 24 years and protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup on the first baseman’s way to his first American League batting crown.

Though the Tigers supposedly had contact last week with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, in the wake of Martinez’s injury, the fit didn’t look realistic. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski downplayed the chances of a Fielder deal just last Thursday, telling MLive.com’s Angela Wittrock that they probably would be focused on a short-term deal.

“Of course we’d consider it,” Dombrowski said of Fielder at the time, “but realistically, it’s probably not a good fit. … We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season.”

Dombrowski wouldn’t completely put the Fielder speculation to rest but stuck to his statement that the “fit really is not there at this point.”

As recently as Monday, Dombrowski told the Detroit News, “We’ve got a lot of names to consider.”

However, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has a history of putting together deals with Boras late in the offseason. In 2004, Ivan Rodriguez surprised many with a four-year contract to join a Tigers team coming off a 119-loss season. A year later, Magglio Ordonez signed what ended up being a six-year deal with the Tigers.

Both deals came together late in the offseason with pursuers dwindling. So did Johnny Damon’s one-year contract with the Tigers two years ago. That decision was strongly believed to have come directly from Ilitch, who, at the age of 82, has made his drive to win a World Series well known.

Ilitch’s push is believed to have been the driving factor behind the Fielder deal as well. The owner remembers Fielder from the first baseman’s childhood days tagging along with his father, former Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, around Tiger Stadium and the Tigers clubhouse during the early 1990s.

Defensively, the fit also seemed unlikely. Fielder has played his entire Major League career with the National League at first base in Milwaukee, having played just 17 career games at DH during Interleague Play. The Tigers have installed Cabrera as a cornerstone player at first base, where his defense has improved markedly over the last two years.

A source close to Cabrera said the Tigers front office approached the slugger to see if he would be all right with the club adding Fielder and possibly pushing Cabrera away from first base. Cabrera, according to the source, told the team he was fine with it, and that he’s looking forward to playing alongside Fielder.

Cabrera told the Venezuelan newspaper <i>Lieder in Deportes</i> that he’s moving back to third base. Whether that’s on a full-time basis or part-time remains to be seen. At the very least, the Tigers are expected to use a rotation that makes sure neither is relegated to a being a full-time DH, including some games at third. Cabrera manned the hot corner for several seasons with the Florida Marlins before the Tigers moved him to first early in 2008.

What the Tigers will do a year from now, when Martinez is expected to be back at full strength, will be another challenge. Martinez spent most of last season at DH while filling in at catcher on some days as essentially a backup to All-Star Alex Avila. An August knee sprain, however, limited Martinez to DH down the stretch, and manager Jim Leyland said at season’s end he planned not to catch the 33-year-old Martinez again for the rest of his contract.

In the end, however, the Tigers had an offensive hole that Ilitch and management felt they needed to fill. They’ll deal with the roster impacts later, certainly next year.

The move caught even Cecil Fielder by surprise, the former slugger told MLB Network Radio. The father and son have had an estranged relationship in recent years stemming from debts the elder Fielder accumulated in retirement, reportedly costing the family their home. However, they have kept in touch in recent years.

“I didn’t see Detroit in the picture,” Cecil Fielder said.

Very few people did. But one big financial swing, it happened.

“I know Mr. Ilitch is probably excited,” Cecil Fielder said. “He’s been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish.”

16 Comments

OMG!

Cabrera said “Im back to third wich is my natural position”. He was signed as a shorstop (belive it or not).
He signed with Detroit as a 3B and was forced to 1b by the inability of guillen to do the feet work at 1B.
Still, it will be scary each time he slams his body against the field at the hot corner

Jackson CF
Boesch RF
Cabrera 3B
Fielder 1B
Young .DH?
Avilia C
Peralta SS
Kelly ,Dirks? LF
Santiago 2b

So many great possible lineups this is going to be a fun year:

Dirks LF/Kelly 3B /Jackson CF
Boesch RF
Cabrera DH/3B
Fielder 1B
Avila C
Young LF/DH
Peralta SS
Santiago 2B /Raburn 2B /Dirks LF/Kelly LF/3B
Inge 3B /Santiago 2B /Jackson CF

I think I’d prefer Kelly at 3B, Cabrera DH’ing, Young in LF most days. Let’s see what Jimmy does..

this team has it’s core players other than Victor in the prime of their careers. if there was any time to be aggressive, it is now. the contracts given Pujols and Fielder make the ones given out last offseason to Dunn and Werth appear as an utter waste of big money.

And they were, they were.

You’re right, El Tigre. Many people forget that it was Guillen’s inexplicable difficulties at 1stbase that forced the position switch in 2008. That Miguel got this good at 1stbase is a testament to his work ethic. At third, he’s free to roam, and that’s the one area he never quite got down at 1st. I still see that Galarraga game………

What can anyone say? Maybe just “Holy sh*t!!!”

There will be a very healthy situation with Leyland sharing DH time amongst Young, Cabby and Prince. This really will be an opportunity for him to keeps these muscled hitters with fresh legs.
I don’t see them going after Cespedes now. I see this incredible turn of events justifying about anything they decide to do now at the top of the order. I had suspected they will give AJ another shot at leadoff and the recent development with the revised (again) leg kick pretty much indicates that intention. Evetually that may work out. There certainly is still a need for production up there but the meatier lineup may prove very forgiving.
Way to go DD and Illitch.

Im shock!!! this is a BOMB!!! since i never thought Fielder could be with the Tigers and im sorry if im lost with all the off-season trades and stuff but i was following the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, if Cabrera is ok with Fielder on the Team well 2012 will be a great year for the Tigers (Except for Victor Martinez injury of course). I just hope Victor can fully recover from his injury and can be with the Tigers in no time.

Here’s hoping Vmart is ready for the September/October push ;)

Important to add to Cabrera’s comment to the Venezuelan sports publication — he seems happy about the move and signing Fielder.

He said (my rough translation from Spanish): “I’m moving to third base, which is my natural position. The acquisition of Fielder is going to benefit our team.”

Unbelievable. Really crazy!!! So excited. Maybe Prince can wear #45 and I can pull my old Cecil jersey out from the back of the closet. Then again, it may not fit me anymore ;)
.
Truly amazing.
.
Go Tigers !!!!!!
.
— Bob

I like the options it gives the club. I am weary of the nl to al switch for fielder. It may take more than a yr for him to adjust but when he does watch out. This adds incredible depth to our lineup. I must admit it will take some adjusting to all the changes with cabby going to 3b again. can inge learn 2b where he may get some extra play time. Will inge be a def replacement for cabby on regular basis. Im comfortable with delmon young dh and raburn in lf. Boesch and dirks platoon rf and dirks occasionally giving jackson a day off. Cmon spring training.

Forgot 1 thing. Thank you Mr Ilitch for giving Detroit another wonderfull team and surprising us fans once again. I am truely thankfull for Mr. Ilitch believing in Detroit and giving us hope when nobody else does. God bless you boys.

One can’t say enough about Mr. Ilitch’s efforts in Detroit. That we in other parts of the country/world can proudly walk around in Detroit gear without having to listen to any lip is largely due to his contributions.
.
And I am VERY glad I had already bought my tickets for spring training and the regular season.

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