Ferguson: A year later, Tigers signing of Fielder looks good

Scott Ferguson
12/31/2012 12:34:58 PM
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Just six weeks to go till pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Most, but definitely not all of the big trades have been made and free agents signed. Still there are some fairly impressive free agents available, including right hander Kyle Lohse, lefty Joe Saunders and righty Roy Oswalt -- if he decides to play -- and Shaun Marcum.
There are some closers of note as well including Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde and Brian Wilson as well as outfielder Michael Bourn.
Alex Anthopoulos actually pulled off a trade on New Year's day a year ago, re-acquiring reliever Jason Frasor (currently a free agent) from the White Sox for a couple of pitching prospects, Daniel Webb and Myles Jaye. The Jays also signed lefty reliever Darren Oliver January 9th and Omar Vizquel on January 24th.
Two of the biggest and in some ways most controversial free agent signings also happened last January. Texas won the posting bid on Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish and signed him on the 18th. Ironically, the same day, Colorado signed the "Grand old Man," Jamie Moyer who actually signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays later in the summer before being cut loose.
The busiest day in January was the 26th. Boston signing outfielder Cody Ross, The A's coming to terms with veteran outfielder DH Johnny Gomes, the Yankees landing right hander Hiroki Kuroda and last but certainly not least, Detroit signing up Prince Fielder to a nine year mammoth $214 million dollar deal.
At the time much was made of Fielder's body type, 5-foot-11 and 275 pounds and whether he had any hope of making it through to the end of the contract as major contributor with the Tigers. Well the Tigers certainly aren't complaining through year one. Prince slugged 30 homers, drove in 108 runs and hit .313. He provided the Tigers with a devastating one-two punch with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and helped lead Detroit to the World Series where they ultimately lost to the Giants.
Out of curiosity, I took a look at his dad, Cecil Fielder "Big Daddy" and how his number diminished as he moved into his 30's. Cecil's last really big year was 1996, at age 32, which he split between Detroit and the Yankees. He hit 39 homers, knocked in 117 runs and batted .252.
Cecil played his final game, at Cleveland as member of the Indians on September 13th of 1998. He went 1 for 2 off lefty Jim Parque of the White Sox. His final hit a single up the middle, before David Justice pinch hit for him next time through the order.
The following spring Fielder went to camp with the Blue Jays for a second go round with the club he cut his teeth with in mid-80's. Cecil had a good spring in '99, but new skipper Jim Fregosi opted to cut him and go with the more versatile David Hollins, who had played for him in his days managing the Phillies. So Cecil's career was done at 35.
Prince will be 29 on May 9th. Barring injury or a catastrophic drop-off, should far surpass those of his father's, just as Barry Bonds dwarfed those of his father Bobby. Prince has already hit 260 homeruns and has a career batting average of .287. Cecil hit 319 homeruns for his career and batted .255.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch approved the signing of Prince Fielder for one reason: He wanted to win the World Series. They came close in 2012, and are still arguably one of the top two or three teams in the American League. Some would say the best.
Detroit has added outfielder Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez is returning from knee surgery to add another impressive bat and they resigned Anibal Sanchez to complete a standout rotation. The Tigers still may need an upgrade at shortstop and it remains to be seen if youngster Bruce Rondon is actually going to be their closer.
Prince Fielder's contract runs for eight more years till he hits 36. I believe he is a better player than his father and has the additional motivation of playing for a top notch contender. It's possible he may fade over the final two or three years of his contract and have to become a full time designated hitter, but the Tigers winning one, maybe two World Series is definitely within the realm of possibility. For that reason, the Prince Fielder signing was worth it.

A long-time member of the baseball beat, Scott Ferguson covers the Blue Jays for TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto. His baseball blog appears on during the season.

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