Fielder Deal May Haunt Tigers Long Term

The Detroit Tigers made themselves a significantly better team on Tuesday. Signing Prince Fielder immediately elevates their status in the tough field of American League opponents. However, if we're evaluating this $214 million commitment for the duration of the nine year contract, it may not end up being quite so favorable for the Tigers.

No one in the baseball world would have anything negative to say about Prince Fielder's ability. He will immediately give Detroit a potent 30 home run, 100 RBI bat in 2012 and he also gives Miguel Cabrera just about the best protection in the lineup that money can buy. And, at just 27-years-old, Prince may be on the cusp of having some of his best seasons as a big leaguer.

If this deal is being looked at from a business perspective, however, there's a lot of reasons to be skeptical. As talented as Fielder may be, this type of commitment to a player has far reaching ramifications on the future of an organization. And, although a nine year contract mostly raises long term concerns, there's reason to have at least some mild concerns even in 2012.

When you look at just the near future, it's easy to see the positive aspect. Fielder's offensive production far outweighs the negatives, but one issue to consider is the potential lack of athleticism at the team's two corner positions. That concern of course is contingent on the idea that the Tigers will consider trying Miguel Cabrera at third base and that he can still play the position at all. And, that's a pretty significant question mark. If that switch is made, you're relying on two men with hefty frames to stay healthy over the course of long term contracts. Even more significantly, Detroit could also be setting themselves up to be a significantly weaker defensive team than they're use to being.

When it comes to the man himself, most around baseball have nothing but good things to say about Prince Fielder and his work ethic. His frame does have to make you worry, however, despite the assurances from around the game that he's far more athletic than he appears. Nine years from now, when he's approaching his 37th birthday, it will be interesting to see just how many productive and healthy years Detroit got from Fielder.

Again, from a business perspective, there's reason to criticize this deal. The duration is a major concern, as is the amount of money. His total contract dwarfs what Adrian Gonzalez received from the Boston Red Sox last spring and although Gonzalez is older, Fielder's deal has to make a club like Boston feel like they got a pretty nice discount on their first baseman.

Prince Fielder will make Detroit one of the scariest teams in baseball in 2012, and probably for a few years after that, but both the money involved and the length of the deal at least have the potential to come back to bite the Tigers in the long haul.

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