The dust is still settling on the Prince Fielder signing, and we’re still learning and digesting a lot of information about the signing. We’ve just learned, that contrary to my earlier post immediately after the signing happened, that Fielder will in fact be the primary first baseman for the Tigers, and that Miguel Cabrera will apparently be moving to third base, where he rose to prominence in Florida.
Now, looking at this defensive alignment….man, the Tigers are *not* going to be good on defense at the corners. Neither player is good defensively at first, with Fielder averaging -8 runs on DRS, and Cabrera was at -5 runs….so call it a loss of three runs there. At third, Cabrera was -30 runs for his career in a little over 3200 innings….so call it -10 over a full season’s worth of games. The man Cabrera is replacing at third, Brandon Inge, is at +50 over 8200 innings at third….so call that +6 per season. The shift from Cabrera/Inge at the corners to Fielder/Cabrera actually will cost the Tigers 19 runs, or about two wins, per season.
But then, there’s the offensive component. In Inge’s career on offense, he’s accrued about 10.5 fWAR over his 5176 career plate appearances. That’s about what, eight seasons worth of offense? That comes out to about 1.4 fWAR a season on offense. Now, look at Fielder. He’s accrued 27 fWAR on offense over his six year career, for about 4.5 per season…then again, that includes a couple of middling seasons early in his career. Let’s call him 5 fWAR on offense. Going from Inge’s bat to Fielder’s gives the Tigers about 3.5 wins per season. Combine that with the two wins they’re losing defensively, and you’re looking at a net gain of 1.5 wins. Is that worth $214 million over nine seasons?
Detroit will be without DH Victor Martinez this season, and they’re still in the market for a replacement. It’s become clear as news on the Fielder signing as come forward that neither Fielder nor Cabrera will take over for Martinez at DH. There aren’t really any sexy DHs left on the market. They’ve been linked to Johnny Damon lately, so let’s assume that’s who gets signed. Damon was the Rays’ primary DH last year, and accrued 1.5 fWAR, nearly all of which were on offense. Martinez was worth 2.9 fWAR last year, a majority of which came on offense. That’s a loss of 1.4 fWAR…which completely nullifies the wins added by replacing Inge in the lineup.
The Tigers have gotten the sexy, big name bat on offense. But for 2012, I’m not sure they really improve all that much. And in 2013, when Martinez comes back and is hopefully healthy, the Tigers will get back those two wins…assuming everything goes according to plan. Detroit made a big move by signing Fielder, but by shifting Cabrera to third base as opposed to designated hitter, I don’t think they’re gaining all that much.