Motor City Shakedown (USAT)
Baseball trades are fun. Fantasy trades are fun.
The Rangers and Tigers filled both of those columns with their surprise blockbuster Wednesday, making it rain in November. A glorious day to be a baseball fan. (And for the love of all things holy, anything to kick A-Rod off the front page.)
The deal has Ian Kinsler going to Detroit, Prince Fielder headed to Arlington. Texas also scoops up $30 million in the transaction. There are plenty of primary and secondary fantasy angles to consider, so let's dig in and figure it out.
Big Win: Fielder to Arlington
Even the most casual baseball fan sees the upside here. Comerica Park might not be the offensive graveyard it's portrayed as in some circles, but it's not a place you want your fake batters to settle. Fielder heads to a power haven down in Texas, especially for a lefty slugger - the jet stream routinely blows out to right field. Bring a glove (and maybe a helmet) if you're heading to the ballpark.
Fielder comes off his worst full season, a .279/.362/.457 slash with 25 homers. His career OPS is 97 points higher. He dealt with a well-publicized marriage split in 2013, which likely affected his play on some level. A fresh start, a hitter's yard - everything points to a major bounce-back in 2014. Pay up.
Be careful not to overplay the weight angle with the beefy Fielder; he's proven to be remarkably durable through his career. The player in this deal who's injury prone is Kinsler (in part because the attrition position he plays). Fielder's games played column is as tidy as it gets: 162, 162, 162, 161, 162, 159, 158, 157. He's basically the CC Sabathia of batters; the body type might trip him up down the road, but given that he's headed into his Age 30 season, we shouldn't worry about that for 2014.
Slight Loss: Kinsler to Detroit
Kinsler enjoyed the home cooking through his Texas career, posting a .898 OPS in Arlington and a .710 OPS out of a suitcase (that's a paltry .242/.312/.399 slash). Divisional life didn't do him many favors - hello Oakland, hiya Seattle - but if you owned Kinsler, you knew where your Texas Toast was buttered. Kinsler also missed chunks of time in five of the last seven seasons. You know the risks involved.
But while Kinsler loses something in the swap from Arlington to Detroit, he might gain with the rest of the AL Central - the pitching opponents aren't as daunting, at least on paper. And maybe a change of scenery comes at the right time for Kinsler, in front of his 32nd birthday in June. Batting somewhere in front of Miguel Cabrera won't hurt, that's for sure - I'm not talking about protection here, but the float of being on base for an elite run producer. (While Texas took a step back in the runs-scored column last year, Detroit finished second in the majors. I'm expecting both teams to be among baseball's top five or six offenses this time around.)
Mild Win: Detroit Pitching Staff
No matter what the Tigers decide to do the next three months, they'll have a better infield defense next year. Cabrera almost certainly is done as a third baseman now that first base is open (he can also DH, of course). If ground-ball friendly Rick Porcello and Doug Fister hang around, they stand to benefit the most.
Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski picks up important financial flexibility in the swap - Kinsler is on the books for four years and $62 million while Fielder still has 7/168 go to. Even when you factor in the $30 million the Rangers get, Detroit frees up three years and $76 million in this swap. With Max Scherzer a year away from free agency (and Miggy just two years away), this is not an insignificant factor.
Win: Jurickson Profar
The highly-touted kid was jerked around during his rookie year, but the Rangers have the deck cleared now. With Kinsler out of town, Profar now has a middle infield spot to call his own. Profar's .234/.308/.336 return from 2013 was a disappointment, but remember we're talking about a 20-year-old who didn't have a dedicated starting spot. The peace of mind that comes with a regular job cannot be overstated.