Friday, November 22, 2013

Hot Stove Started to Blaze With Fielder-Kinsler Swap

@MiguelCabrera: Recordando a un buen amigo,todo el exito del Mundo en su Nuevo equipo......recordar es vivir!!! Q momentos inolvidables mi Hermano.. (Remembering a good friend, [wish you] all the success in the world [with your] new team. "To remember is to live ... What unforgettable moments, my brother." (translations courtesy of @jonmorosi)

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels completed a four player swap on Friday that sends third baseman David Freese to the west coast and outfielder Peter Bourjos to the midwest. It wasn't a huge deal, but it's got the fire roaring pretty well on the MLB Hot Stove.

By comparison the deal is overshadowed by the Prince Fielder - Ian Kinsler blockbuster that took place on Wednesday. The Tigers had signed Fielder to a 9-year, $214MM deal prior to the 2012 season and he responded with a robust .940 OPS, 30 HR, 108 RBI, and 83 runs scored in his first year in Motown.

Fielder, who is listed at 5'11", 275 lbs, saw his production slip considerably this past season. He had career lows in OPS (.819 OPS) and home runs (25) and slumped from May through July. It didn't help that Miguel Cabrera wracked up most of the RBI opportunities before Fielder could get into the batter's box. Things got even worse in the post-season when Fielder was virtually invisible.

It didn't hepl that pitchers could work around Fielder while number five hitter Victor Martinez struggled through the end of June. Though the Tigers play in pitcher friendly Comerica Park, Fielder's numbers were actually better at home than on the road. His new home, the Ballpark at Arlington, is much friendlier to hitters. Fielder has a .965 OPS in 49 at-bats against Rangers' home pitching, with 4 HR and a .592 slugging pct. He'll fill the void in the lineup created when then free agent Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels prior to the 2013 season.

Critics lambasted Fielder for his physique, but he missed just one game in the last four seasons. Perhaps his numbers would be better if they rested the big man's frame a little more often.

Kinsler, who is two years older than the 29-year old Fielder, had spent his entire seven year career with Texas. He signed a five-year contract extension in April, 2012 that will pay him at least $75MM through the 2018 season. (The contract has a $12MM option in 2018 with a $5MM buyout.) The deal made him the highest paid second baseman in baseball, a title he'll no longer hold once Robinson Cano puts some ink on the dotted line.

Kinsler's game is one of speed and power; he's got the ability to hit 25 home runs and steal 25 bases. He'll replace outgoing free agent second baseman Omar Infante in the Detroit lineup. The Tucson, AZ native had an average 2012 campaign - a .749 OPS, 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 30 attempts. He also knocked in 72 runs and scored 105 in a powerful Texas lineup.

Though he was an All-Star in '12, Kinsler's numbers fell off drastically from the 2011 season when he finished 11th in the AL MVP voting. Kinsler started like a house afire in the first month of 2013 with a .900+ OPS, 5 HR, 16 RBI, and 3 steals. It was all downhill from there, with a .559 OPS in 15 June games the worst of it.

The second baseman also struggled in the theft department this past season. He had previously stolen bases at a remarkable 83.5% clip, but was thrown out 11 times in 26 stolen bases attempts in 2013. An early season intercostal strain may have been partially to blame for Kinsler's year long struggles.

The trade doesn't just effect the two players involved. Barring another trade or free agent deal, phenom Jurickson Profar will start the season as the Rangers second baseman. The Rangers could also become players for Cano, which would enable them to deal Profar or shortstop Elvis Andrus with Profar than sliding over to replace Andrus.

The deal will enable Detroit to move Cabrera back to first base and may open third base up for top prospect Nick Castellanos. The Tigers may have to do something to cheer up Cabrera, however, after the slugger took to Twitter to show how sad he was about his buddy Fielder being dealt away.

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