Last night the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder and gave $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The main reason for the trade, as I see it, is to free up first base for Miguel Cabrera. What we learned in 2013 is that the Tigers cannot afford to have their best hitter, who just happens to be the best hitter in baseball, not in the line up and 100% healthy. Fielder only plays first base, so unless he was willing to DH or learn a new position, there really was no position for him on the team.
Fielder could have made the trade much more difficult for the Tigers had he produced down the stretch in 2013 when Cabrera was injured. With nobody picking up the slack for Miggy, and the Cleveland Indians breathing down their neck, Jim Leyland was forced to keep Miggy in the line up when he should have been sitting to heal up for the playoffs.
Another big factor was Fielder's performance in the playoffs, he is a career .194 hitter in the playoffs, Ian Kinsler is a career .311 hitter in the playoffs with nearly as many at bats. Through in Fielder's less then stellar play at first base, his horrible base running, and his indifferent attitude and that all made it very easy for the Tigers to trade him.
Omar Infante has been the Tiger's best second baseman in the last two years, but Kinsler is an upgrade. The questions the trade raises for the Tigers is who will play third base, and how will they replace Fielder's bat in the line up? I think you want to keep Cabrera at third, though Kinsler could possibly be slotted in that position. Martnez could move up to fourth, but I like him at fifth. What this suggests to me is that the Tigers need to pick up a home run hitting left fielder.
Most see the trade as positive for enabling the Tigers to re-sign Max Scherzer. There has been talk of the Tigers trading Scherzer, mostly because of fear they won't have enough money to sign him, but also because some wonder whether Scherzer will be able to repeat his 2013 performance. I say that pitching is such a crap shoot you are better off sticking with what you know than taking a chance with an unknown. The Tigers need to keep Scherzer and Verlander on their staff while everyone else could be expendable.
Another factor is the bullpen, particularly the closer. If Dombrowski does not upgrade the bullpen, he will have failed to do so in two off seasons, meaning he really has not found the final piece to get the Tigers to a World Series championship. In my opinion, if there is no upgrade of the bullpen the Tigers have to give serious thought about making a change at General Manager. With the talent on the Tigers it will simply be inexcusable for Dombrowski to not address what is their most glaring weakness.
Fortunately, the baseball offseason has really just begun and their is a lot of time left for Dombrowski to make more changes.