In the first blockbuster trade of this offseason, the Detroit Tigers sent Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This deal makes a ton of sense — for both teams.
Still, a one-for-one trade has rarely been so complicated. Given all the repercussions likely to follow, let's simplify this by examining the impact one team at a time.
What This Means for the Tigers
The Tigers had the most inflexible roster in baseball last year, and it wasn’t even close. In Miguel Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez, they carried three designated hitters who all needed to be in the lineup. That meant Fielder playing below-average defense at first base and Cabrera showing statue-like range at third. It all came to a head during the playoffs. Groin and abdominal issues further degraded Cabrera’s already poor defense, but the Tigers couldn’t shift their injured but still potent star to DH with Martinez raking and Fielder providing their biggest source of left-handed power. Trading Fielder loosens that logjam. Now Cabrera can move back to first base, where he’ll do less harm to Detroit’s defense. And if new manager Brad Ausmus decides to give Cabrera a bit of a breather, he can slide the two-time MVP to DH and let Martinez play first base, a position he has shown he can play semi-competently.
In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In case you were busy declaring that your rap career is one and done, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Matt Harvey dominated the Rockies, throwing a four-hit shutout as the Mets took down Colorado, 5-0. Harvey entered the postgame press conference wearing a fedora, sitting with confidence at the microphone to tell the following anecdote: "In all his years on the road, Mets scout Bryan Lambe had never seen an arm like the one he was watching that night. The comparisons were obvious but insufficient: A young Justin Verlander sprang to mind, but who would believe that this boy throwing in North Carolina's powder blue could manage the success the Tigers starter had? Sure enough, though, the thought was unshakable; this kid could be a star if he was taken care of. But that was the rub. The boy he was watching was on his 150th pitch. Was he some sort of magician with a rubber arm, or a ticking time bomb destined for the surgery table? Well, I think we have our answer. Because that young boy was Matt Harvey. And now you know, the rest of the story."
Last night, some MLB dudes did some yard work (total insider baseball term there) at the 2013 Home Run Derby. Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland A's bested Bryce Harper in the final round, which means Harper has to serve as the Cuban slugger's personal bat boy for the rest of the season. Tough break, Nats fans. On the bright side, he probably is safe from doing this for a while.
Just kidding (Harper is never safe from running into a wall). Anyway, you probably saw some of the action last night, since there was possibly literally nothing else on except The Bachelorette. But in case you missed it, here are some of the best moments from the Derby in GIF form, courtesy of Grantland's GIF Derby winner, @HeyBelinda.
Sportswriters love telling people how unbiased sportswriters are, and a big part of that is rooting for stories, not individual teams. That’s pretty obvious. It’s much easier and much more fun to write about an unusual defensive play, or a no-hitter, or a walk-off hit, than it is to write about an arduous 12-5 yawner that stopped being close after the third inning.
And it’s not just writers who do this. Even without the professional self-interest, fans want to see the underdog overachieve. They want to see the unusual, the exciting, and they want the drama and uncertainty to last as long as possible.
So in the spirit of lasting drama, everyone ought to be rooting as hard as they can against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are kind of old news, with two consecutive division titles in their pockets. They rely heavily on slow guys who walk and hit home runs (and if you’re going to do that, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are two pretty good slow guys to have), and they’ve got a starting rotation that might be better than all the other rotations in the division. To balance those strengths come two glaring weaknesses. First, the bullpen has been quite good so far this year but is built on a foundation of quicksand. Second, they have the kind of defense one might expect when a lineup has a lot of slow guys who walk and hit home runs.
Now, none of this makes the Tigers particularly objectionable. The reason you should root against them is that they’re by far the best team in baseball’s worst division, and they’re starting to pull away in the standings.
The baseball analytics revolution has helped us answer many questions that might have seemed unknowable before. We can now measure not only a pitcher's velocity but also the exact horizontal and vertical break on his pitches, the precise coordinates of his arm slot, and dozens of other variables. We can calculate the worth of catchers who excel at framing pitches. We can even take the sum of a player's contributions and find a reasonable estimate of his overall value.
Lovely pursuits, all. But mere trivialities next to the most pressing baseball question the world has ever had to face: If Mr. Burns had to re-staff the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team with a lineup full of present-day players, who should he choose?
Mailbag time! If you've got a question for a future fantasy baseball post, e-mail email@example.com, or do as these fine folks did by tweeting questions to me here: @jonahkeri.
What is the general potential of Matt Harvey? Could he be the future ace of the Mets? Is he worth staking as a keeper in a competitive NL-only league?
— Kevin McNeill
Pretty strong. Harvey came into this season as Baseball America's 54th-ranked prospect. In 20 starts at Triple-A this season, Harvey fanned more than a batter an inning, hiking his minor league total to 268 strikeouts (and 95 walks) in 245 ⅔ innings. Called up to the majors a month ago, Harvey's continued his bat-missing ways. On Wednesday against the Rockies, he struck out nine Rockies in six innings. That hiked his season total to 43 Ks (along with 15 walks and three homers allowed) in 36 innings. Harvey's 43 punch-outs in his first six major league games actually broke the Mets franchise record previously held by some guy named Nolan.
1. Hope Solo: God Forgives, Hope Don't
The USWNT goalkeeper was warned this week by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for testing positive for something called Canrenone, which I may or may have not had at Olive Garden last night, incidentally. She was basically like, "Cool warning." Rem and I talked about this briefly.
Rem: Am I allowed to nominate Hope Solo for beating her charge? Chris: Not guilty, y'all got to feel her. Rem: Teflon Don. Chris: Hope Solo treated those charges like she treated Briana Scurry back in '07.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Prince Fielder hit a record-tying 12 final-round home runs to win his second Home Run Derby and join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only player with multiple titles. He also remains the only prince to ever win a title, following the indecisive performance of Prince Hamlet, who swung way too late, the boring and wordy performance of Prince Valiant, who nobody watched after his first two outs, the threatening counterculture performance of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air from 1990, who used a funky multicolored bat that shocked middle America, the bizarre performance of Prince himself, whose hitting ability is not quantifiable or even recognizable, and the ends-justify-the-means performance of Machiavelli's theoretical prince, who keeps getting banned for trying to use a metal bat.
Brandon Inge has been released from the Tigers, and Detroit imploded. My god, has there ever been an average player who inspired so much deranged passion? Inge’s jerseys rival Justin Verlander’s in ubiquity. I am not kidding you. And yet he is booed mercilessly at Comerica Park. The sports radio call-in shows are unable to talk about baseball at all without veering into a debate about whether Inge is ridiculous or a hardworking guy. In the wake of being cut, "Brandon Inge" trended nationwide on Twitter. There is a #GoodbyeInge hashtag that’s still flowing. The Detroit Free Press had no fewer than six features about Inge spotlighted on its homepage this morning. The Detroit News picks up the slack with four more. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said in the official announcement that “the letters I got about [Inge] were more conflicted than about any player I've ever been associated with.”
Few baseball executives boast a stronger resume than Dave Dombrowski. He played a central role in developing many of the players on the 1994 Montreal Expos, a loaded team with legitimate World Series aspirations before the strike wiped out the rest of that season. He became the first GM in the history of the Florida Marlins, assembling the team that won it all in 1997 and also the core of the 2003 World Champions. Three years after the Tigers posted one of the worst seasons in baseball history, a Dombrowski-led Detroit team stormed to their first AL pennant in 22 years. He's connected on the scouting side and well-versed on the statistical side, understands how much players are worth and how to budget for a winning ballclub. In short, Dave Dombrowski knows his stuff.
Which is exactly why Scott Boras wanted no part of him.
By the grace of Tebow, Jonah Keri has landed at his new home in Denver and is back with a new podcast. He and New York Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner go around the majors to break down the Prince Fielder deal, the loaded AL East, and the twin towers of the AL West.
Shifting to the National League, we run through the much-improved Reds, the maybe-one-player-short Nats and Marlins, and an NL West division that might not have a 90-win team in the bunch. All that plus Scott Boras' target-the-owner negotiating strategies, why Matt Kemp should have won the MVP last year, and a tribute to the great Gary Carter.
1. Dave Winfield
Bill Barnwell has respect for two kinds of people: those who work hard, and those who accept nothing but the best. I think Bill has fallen in love: "I think we need to honor Dave Winfield, he who would not go out and pick up Chinese food until the end of the Giants game and would not settle for any quality of Chinese food below P.F. Chang's. Congratulations, Dave Winfield, on keeping your standards high."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
A source reported that the Detroit Tigers have agreed to a nine-year, $214 million deal with former Brewers slugger Prince Fielder. The hefty contract was a bitter pill to swallow for Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, who is currently being paid in worthless foreclosed Detroit homes.