Rangers give Prince a chance for a fresh start
Following rough end to his two years in Detroit, Fielder could thrive in Arlington
ARLINGTON -- Prince Fielder was subdued after Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He had just gone 0-for-3 in a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox and the Tigers had been eliminated.
Fielder finished the playoffs hitting just .225 while failing to drive in a run. He had also been the target of Tigers fans' displeasure during the three games at Comerica Park.
"You have to be a man about it," Fielder said. "I have kids. If I'm sitting around pouting about it, how am I going to tell them to keep their chins or keep their heads up when something doesn't go their way? It's over. It's a team. We're here to win, no matter if I didn't get any hits. If we would've won, it would've been all right."
Fielder also suggested he would have no trouble getting over the Tigers' loss.
"What am I supposed to do?" Fielder said. "You play hard, you give it all you got, and then there's life. Like I said, I have two boys I have to take care of. I'm not going to sit around and be pouty all day. I can't try to help them become men if I'm over here pouting."
Now, Fielder begins a new chapter in his stellar career. After two years with the Tigers and the disappointing end to the 2013 season, Fielder was traded to the Rangers on Wednesday for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The deal gives the Rangers an impact left-handed bat in the middle of their order. It also allows them to move Kinsler so that Jurickson Profar can take over at second base.
"[Fielder] gives us exactly what we're looking for," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's a very good complement to Adrian Beltre and a great presence in the middle of the order."
Fielder was not available to the media on Wednesday night. News of the trade broke before the clubs were ready to announce the deal. Neither general manager was able to speak to their player about the trade. Fielder is on vacation and will probably come into Arlington next week, according to the Rangers.
The Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract before the 2012 season after he spent the first seven years of his career with the Brewers. He was traded with seven years and $168 million left on the deal, although the Tigers will pay the Rangers $30 million over the final five seasons.
"He was an All-Star player for us a couple years," Tigers president, CEO and GM Dave Dombrowski said in a Wednesday night conference call with reporters. "He played hard and wanted to play all the time under any circumstance. It's a time where we'll be thankful for what he did for us for two years. He drove in 100 runs for us two years in a row, and that's not easy to do."
Dombrowski said the adverse reaction of the Tigers fans to Fielder's struggles in the playoffs did not push him to make the trade.
"Not really," Dombrowski said. "I mean, it's a situation where you have to be careful to not react on those type of scenarios. From Prince's perspective, everybody's thinking back to the postseason, which was not a good postseason for him, but a lot of guys didn't have a good postseason around baseball. It was such a pitching-dominated postseason. You don't look at snapshots. You try to look at your total situation, and I think this made sense for us based on our total situation."
Dombrowski said Fielder was not looking to get out of Detroit. But Fielder had the right to veto the trade and instead approved it. He may see the Ballpark in Arlington being far better suited for his left-handed power swing than Comerica Park, which is considered a pitcher-friendly environment.
"Prince never expressed to me that he wanted to be traded, no," Dombrowski said. "I talked to his agent [Scott Boras] about different things throughout the last couple years, but I never had a specific request that [Fielder] wanted to be traded."
The Tigers needed a second baseman because Omar Infante became a free agent after the season. They also needed a leadoff hitter. Austin Jackson filled that role last season, but he was demoted during the playoffs because he, too, was struggling at the plate. Kinsler has been the Rangers' leadoff hitter for most of the past three seasons.
"Hopefully this is a win-win baseball trade for both sides," Daniels said.
Fielder, 29, is two years younger than Kinsler and was selected with the seventh-overall pick of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft out of Melbourne Eau Gallie (Fla.) High School by the Brewers. The son of former Tigers first baseman Cecil Fielder, he made his Major League debut with the Brewers on June 13, 2005.
Since then, Prince Fielder has been one of the premier power hitters in the game. His 283 home runs and 860 RBIs over the past eight seasons are the fourth most among all Major League players. His .918 OPS over that stretch is the ninth best.
Fielder also has played in more games over the past eight years than any other player. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said that durability says a lot about Fielder's makeup.
"The quality he brings is an old-school gamer," Melvin said. "He plays every game and wants to play every inning. Don't think he wants to take a day off or three innings off -- he plays every inning of every game. You have to drag him off the field. I know he had an off year last year, but this is a guy who hit behind the Most Valuable Player in the league the past three years."
Ryan Braun won the National League's MVP Award with Fielder hitting behind him in 2011, and Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP Award the past two seasons with Detroit while batting ahead of Fielder.
"I was talking to Ryan Braun about it recently; we were talking about different guys hitting behind him," Melvin said. "I think there is something to that. Prince has a good eye at the plate and [left-handed pitchers] don't bother him. I think his power will play better in Texas than Detroit.
"Not only the hitting environment, but the cold weather in the [AL] Central Division. Sometimes early in the season you have to go to Chicago to play the White Sox. Cold weather doesn't bother him, but it does affect home runs early on. I think he should hit 30-35 home runs in [the Al West] Division."
Fielder will be the Rangers' first baseman. He does not like to be used at designated hitter and filled that role in just 14 games for the Tigers over the past two seasons. He does not rank well in the advanced defensive statistics used to measure first basemen, but he'll be working with a manager who is considered one of the best at teaching defense.
"It's not an issue," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We'll certainly talk to him, but he won't be a liability. He has always been a first baseman and he has the know-how. We'll get him comfortable there and do what we can to tighten him up."
Fielder has hit cleanup for most of his career. Right now, Washington said Beltre will likely continue to hit fourth for the Rangers.
Hitting in a different spot in the lineup would be an adjustment for Fielder. But after the way this past season ended for him in Detroit, any change could be good for a player still regarded as one of the premium power hitters in the game.
"I like Prince," Melvin said. "I wish we still had him."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. MLB.com reporter Jason Beck contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.