The 2014 MLB season won’t get started until Sunday, March 22 – when the Arizona Diamondbacks face the LA Dodgers in Sydney, Australia of all places – but MLB action is already hot and heavy. Teams throughout the league are adding and subtracting pieces to their respective puzzles in the everlasting hope of competing for a World Series title next fall.
One of the biggest splashes this offseason came in the form of a blockbuster trade involving the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. The Tigers shipped the hard-hitting Prince Fielder off to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler and cash considerations.
In Fielder, the Rangers get the big left-handed bat they’ve coveted since Josh Hamilton left for the greener pastures of Angel Stadium in California. Fielder had a down year in 2013, compiling a slash line of .279/25/106 (AVG/HR/RBI). That may not seem like a down year for most in the majors, but it was the first time Fielder has ever hit less than 28 homeruns in a full MLB season. It was also the third worst batting average he’s compiled and the fourth worst RBI total in eight full campaigns.
However, those numbers would’ve been good more than enough for the Rangers in 2013. In fact, if he played for the Rangers last year, Fielder would’ve ranked second on the team in batting average, third in homeruns and first in RBIs. This is why the Rangers scooped him up and don’t forget, the Rangers play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, so don’t be surprised if Fielder has a much better year in 2014.
Conversely, Kinsler may not have a better year in 2014 – his age predicates a small decline – but that doesn’t mean the Tigers got hosed in this deal. The second baseman produced a slash line of .277/13/72 and when compared to Omar Infante’s (the Tigers’ 2013 second baseman) who produced a line of .318/10/51, you can see they added power to the position. The improvements don’t stop there. Defense was another reason they picked up Kinsler. He had a .978 fielding percentage last year to go along with 89 double plays and 371 assists. Kinsler is a better defender than Infante who produced a fielding line of .980/73/342.
However, the subtraction of Fielder and the addition of Kinsler leaves the Tigers with one glaring hole. Namely, who’ll hit behind Miguel Cabrera to prevent opposing pitchers from pitching around the two-time AL MVP winner? It remains to be seen, but with a few months and GM David Dombrowski calling the shots, the Tigers should be able to find someone to protect Cabrera.
We won’t know who’ll win this trade – or any other MLB offseason move – for quite some time, but don’t be surprised if you see the Tigers or the Rangers fighting for a World Series title in 2014. After all, a championship will undoubtedly prove whose puzzle pieces fit best.