Princely sum could have Tigers paying heavy price

To some restless Jays’ fans, this off season has been yet another test of their patience and loyalty.

To them, it feels like the organization went Christmas shopping but left the credit card at home.

Sure they’ve beefed up the bullpen with closer Sergio Santos and a few other reliable arms. But most would concede that’s not nearly enough to get them over the hump and into the post-season.

Frankly, it’s been a bit of a disappointment. First, No Yu Darvish. And now, no Prince Fielder (if the ever secretive Alex Anthopoulos was even in the running — perhaps we’ll never know.)

The fact no sexy big free agent will be in a Jays’ uniform this spring has been a buzzkill for impatient fans and media. In baseball terms, it feels like a blown save.

Or was it?

All smiles now: Prince Fielder with Detroit Tigers' owner Mike Illitch. Fielder signed a nine-year $214 million dollar deal this week.

Prince Fielder will be taking his talents as they say to the Detroit Tigers. The big slugger got everything baby but mostly, Cecil’s son got a long-term deal that should keep generations of Fielders in designer labels. The fresh Prince of Detroit will rake in a monumental $214 million dollars over nine years.

But would he have been a good acquisition for the Jays — assuming they were even in the bidding. Given Roger’s aversion to tossing around cash, it’s unlikely. None the less, it should be a hot topic at the annual meet & greet with fans and brass this week.

Another leisurely home run trot by Prince Fielder who hit 38 last season for the Milwaukee Brewers.

There has been much analysis about this signing.  The overall take-away seems to be that the Tigers are going to regret this mega-deal. It’s a bit sore now to some that the Jays didn’t land the slugger but in 3-4 years time there might be much relief they didn’t jump in on this one.

Here’s a quick look at some of Fielder’s numbers:  He’s averaged 40 home runs and 113 RBI over the last five years, hitting .282 with a .390 on base percentage and a .540 slugging pct. At 27, that’s about as attractive an offensive package you could ask for in the majors. He should fetch top dollar for those numbers.

No question adding the beefy slugger would make for a formidable lineup with him and Bautista  in the 3-4 slot. Facing those two 8-10 times every game would definitely be a concern to opponents, no question.

Still, many baseball number crunchers say even with that additional power in the lineup,  Fielder’s addition wouldn’t pave the road to the playoffs.

Fielder joins Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols as only the third player in baseball's $200 million dollar club.

Fielder’s WAR (wins above replacement) is projected at about 5.5 in 2012. All things being equal, that would equate to another 5-6 wins this season. Of course there are many factors (Fielder hasn’t yet faced AL pitching for instance) but even with 6 wins, it would still be well shy to have a shot at the wild card.

The Jays need at least 10 more wins this year to equal Tampa Bay’s 91 which clinched the wild card. Crazy as it sounds, spending $24 million a season still wouldn’t get it done. The Jays still have too many holes and questions on their roster. In short, as good and promising as they are, they’re just not there yet.

The one thing GMs were wary about in this deal was the term.  It must chafe some of them that Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, who seems blessed with the Midas touch, got his client exactly what he wanted. Some were speculating Fielder missed the boat in holding out but Boras’ victory in this volatile market must have other agents buying him drinks to learn his secrets.  The gamble paid off big time.

Leave it to an impatient, elderly owner in the Tigers’ Mike Illitch to step up to the plate. Illitch, owner of the popular Red Wings and a pizza conglomerate obviously has very deep pockets. One thing he doesn’t have a lot of is time:  At 82, he dearly wants to see his beloved Tigers win a World Series title before going off to that big pizza parlour in the sky. He doesn’t have the luxury of six or seven years to take his shot (well maybe he does but who knows at 82?) He wants a World Series win NOW.

Had Fielder asked for a four or five year deal at $25 million per, teams likely would’ve been lining up at the door including the Jays. Even at the astronomical salary, the deal makes a lot of sense. But a 9-year contract?

Most project GMs and scouts are forecasting very diminished returns as Fielder enters into the meat of the deal.

And here’s basically why: At 27, Fielder is listed as 5′-11″, 275 lbs. He’s listed at that weight but some like the Wall Street Journal’s Mark Futterman believes that number might be closer to 300 lbs. Do you really want to tie your fortunes to a player with the bod of a hot-dog eating champion?

The stats on such types and their durability are not good and should serve as a warning.

Mo Vaughn, Kent Hrbek most significantly Prince’s father and ex-Jay Cecil, rocked the joint for some sterling years but then broke down and dropped out of sight.

Big, barrel-chested, overweight players don’t tend to gradually lose their offensive impact; they fall off the chart. Few teams have the resources or stomach to fork out $24 million a year for a DH should Son-of-Cecil no longer to able to play first base, which, incidentally, to all you upset Jays’ fans — he kind of stinks at.

There’s even speculation he may not even be able to play in the majors in his final 2-3 years of his contract should his weight continue to increase unabated.

Even in the nutty baseball salary universe, that’s $65-$75 million down the drain that could be cash much more wisely spent elsewhere.  Does anyone see the Jays on board with that? Not with the organization’s come-and-then-we’ll- build-it approach to spending. Not a chance.

But some fans don’t look at it that way — they just don’t care. Winning is winning.   Salaries, budgets and all that stuff is just bookkeeping.

Some free advice to the Tigers: Hire the best personal trainer and nutritionist you can find for your $200-million dollar man.

It’ll be very interesting to see if the Tigers get a good return for their hefty investment or be literally weighed down by it.

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About Rolf Sturm

Sportswriter & blogger, news writer, video journalist, photographer, podcaster
This entry was posted in Hockey and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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