The Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals could not be on two different courses. While the Royals have the best farm system in baseball and are waiting with a slow simmer for everything to cook just right, the Tigers realize that their window is now to win the AL Central and that they’re easily the best team around. So for now, they’re willing to cement that status with a giant contract for Prince Fielder that could easily turn into an albatross later.
Fielder is, of course, the best hitter in the market left and even then he’s always been the best all off-season, save for Albert Pujols. He’s one of the best sluggers in the game with much of his prime years left and so it’s not a bad signing at all. Any fan base should be energized by such an addition, but especially a team that lost Victor Martinez before the season even started.
However, it does mean the team will carry a lot of money on the payroll in the years to come for a player who will likely not be worth it. These are the moves that cripple a franchise later on, and it’s the opposite of what the Royals have done this off-season.
Keith Law writes, "In the long term, of course, this contract won’t end any better than Pujols’. It’s hard to envision Fielder still producing five wins a year of value at age 36, although I can picture that more easily than I can see Pujols producing that much at 42. But the Tigers are coming off a division title they’re likely to repeat in 2012, and there was no better option on the market to help keep them the favorites in this year or next and to increase (however slightly) their chances of advancing to the World Series.
It’s the type of moral-hazard-laced decision MLB general managers make all the time: If the Tigers’ current front office is still in charge as Fielder’s contract enters its final years, the team has probably won a championship or two by that point, justifying the deal; if they don’t win, it’ll be someone else’s mess to clean up. And by Years 8 and 9, a mess it will almost certainly be. (Also worth noting that owner Mike Illitch is 82 years old and this move is a sign that he wants to win sooner rather than later.)"