DETROIT — Less than two years after boldly signing Prince Fielder to a $214 million contract, the Detroit Tigers traded the slugging first baseman to Texas in another blockbuster move.
Fielder was dealt to the Rangers on Wednesday night for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Tigers agreed to pay the Rangers $30 million as part of the swap, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the amount of money exchanged was not revealed when the teams announced the trade. The $30 million is payable from 2016 to 2020.
“Obviously, a very exciting trade for us in adding Prince Fielder to the organization,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “Also a tough trade to make in that Ian Kinsler’s been with the organization since he was drafted in ‘03, and we’ve signed him here a couple of times. Been here, a catalyst for our World Series clubs, and a huge part of this. A winning guy, a heart-and-soul guy, and Detroit got a tremendous player and person.”
It’s the first headline-grabbing move of baseball’s offseason, and it involves two of the American League’s top teams. Detroit has won three consecutive AL Central titles and reached the World Series in 2012, while Texas won the AL pennant in 2010 and 2011.
Fielder, a five-time All-Star, had to consent to the trade before it could be completed. The big first baseman signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the Tigers before the 2012 season that includes a limited no-trade provision.
“We’re thankful for what he did for us,” Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “It’ll be a bat that we miss at times — there’s no doubt about it.”
Kinsler just finished the first season of a $75 million, five-year contract.
With stars like Fielder, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez in the fold, Detroit’s payroll had become one of the game’s biggest. And although Fielder hit 55 home runs over the past two years for the Tigers, his numbers dipped this season and he struggled in the playoffs when Detroit lost to Boston in the AL championship series.
Fielder hit .279 with 25 homers this year. He drove in 106 runs, but it was his lowest home run total over a full season. He did not have a single RBI in the 2013 postseason and hit .182 in the ALCS.
Kinsler batted .277 with 13 homers this year. The three-time All-Star was limited to 136 games because of injuries to his ribs and right side. Kinsler stole 15 bases in 2013 — not a high total by his standards but more than any player on the Detroit team he is joining.
Kinsler enjoyed a breakout season in his career in Clinton in 2004. Playing in 59 games for the LumberKings, he batted .402 with 11 home runs 52 runs batted in. He added nine more homers and 46 RBIs that season after a promotion to Double-A Frisco, for whom he batted .300.
The trade could save the Tigers more than $75 million in the long run, giving them more financial flexibility with Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer a year from free agency.
Fielder is still only 29, and the Rangers are set to add a big bat to the middle of their lineup while also resolving a logjam in the middle of their infield. Jurickson Profar, a highly touted 20-year-old prospect, appeared to be blocked by Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus.
With Fielder gone, Cabrera may move from third base back to first.
“I’m really not sure what we’re going to do as we sit here now today,” Dombrowski said. “Eventually, we see him as a first baseman. Will it happen this year or not? I’m not sure.”