Baseball Props and Picks: Prince Fielder & Ian Kinsler Projections
by Alan Matthews - 11/22/2013
Every Major League Baseball team is flush with cash this year thanks to the new national television contracts kicking in. I won't break down all the financials or fine print, but the gist is that each team has about $25 million more to play with just from that source than last year. In addition, some teams are overflowing with new money from local TV deals -- that's where the big bucks are, and it's why the big markets will always have an advantage.
Baseball's Hot Stove League usually doesn't really get stoked until the winter meetings, which this year start Dec. 9. However, one of those big-market teams with a new local deal and money to burn is the Texas Rangers, and they made the first blockbuster deal of the offseason.
On Wednesday night Texas dealt second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, a trade that was shocking because it was a rare one-for-one deal of all-stars between two World Series contenders in the same league. Just two offseasons ago, the Rangers were hot after Fielder the free agent, but the Tigers were desperate for a big bat after Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending injury and gave Fielder a whopping nine-year, $214 deal. Kinsler, meanwhile, is in the second year of a five-year, $75 million extension.
Detroit might spend and draw like a big-market club, but the Motor City simply isn't a big market any longer. The city has lost thousands of people from the recession and has few Fortune 500 companies left outside the auto industry. Keeping the Tigers competitive is pizza magnate Mike Ilitch spending like crazy to see a World Series before he dies. Make no mistake: This was a salary move for Detroit. The Tigers will save about $46 million on the trade. Kinsler is guaranteed $62 million over the next four, while Fielder has $168 million over seven. Detroit also is paying $30 in yearly increments to Texas starting in a few years.
Detroit will move two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera back to first base, where he is nowhere near the defensive liability he is at third. Presumably, the Tigers' top prospect, Nick Castellanos, will man third, although Detroit could seek a veteran stop-gap through free agency -- it's a terribly weak group likely led by Juan Uribe -- or trade. Kinsler will possibly hit leadoff, allowing strikeout-prone Austin Jackson to hit at the bottom of the lineup, which seemed to energize him in the ALCS. Or maybe Jackson slides to No. 2.
What this deal really does is free up money to sign a closer (Joe Nathan?) after the Tigers' bullpen implosion in the ALCS against Boston and perhaps a left fielder. I don't think this means the Tigers will now sign Max Scherzer to a long-term extension. He is represented by Scott Boras, who always brings his guys to the market.
As for Texas, it has been looking for a big bat at first for years and badly missed Josh Hamilton's left-handed power in the lineup a season ago. Fielder solves both those problems, although he could DH many nights and allow Mitch Moreland, a superior fielder, to play first base. The move also opened up a starting spot for super-prospect Jurickson Profar at second base. Someone of him, Elvis Andrus and Kinsler had to go, and Texas got rid of the oldest guy. Seems like a wise move. I doubt Texas is done as it badly needs a No. 2 starter behind Yu Darvish and perhaps an upgrade in left field. But the top of that lineup, probably Andrus, Alex Rios (a late-season trade acquisition from the White Sox), Fielder and Adrian Beltre looks pretty good. Texas isn't expected to bring back Nelson Cruz.
Detroit remains the second World Series favorite at Sportsbook.ag at +800 behind the Dodgers. Texas got a small bump to +1400. The Tigers are +350 pennant favorites, with the Rangers tied for third at +650.
Bovada has offered some hitting props for both Fielder and Kinsler. The former is moving to a much friendlier hitters' park while the latter is going the opposite way. Fielder's 2014 totals are set at “over/under” .280 average, 29.5 home runs and 102 RBIs (all options at -120).
Fielder was very solid in his two Detroit seasons, except for in the playoffs when he was terrible. He hit .313 with 30 homers and 108 RBIs in 2011 and .279 with 25 dingers and 106 knocked in last year. The big guy is durable, playing at least 157 games every year since he arrived as a full-timer. If you are wondering, Fielder hit .283 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs at spacious Comerica Park and .275 with 12 dingers and 47 knocked in on the road in a few more at-bats. I think the move to Ballpark in Arlington energizes him as long as the oppressive summer heat doesn't wear him down. It shouldn't if he's at DH plenty. In addition, Fielder had some divorce issues he was going through last year and that could have contributed to a down season. I think he's just under the average but hits at least 35 homers with 110 RBIs.
As for Kinsler, he's also trending down and will be 32 in June. Back in 2011, he was a 32-homer, 30-steal guy. He has totaled 32 homers and 36 steals the past two seasons. He hit .277 a year ago after two seasons in the .250s. It's clear his .319 mark in 2008 was an aberration. Kinsler's totals are: .260, 15.5 homers, 65.5 RBIs and 92.5 runs. A lot of this does depend on if Kinsler does indeed hit leadoff. New manger Brad Ausmus said he could hit second. Either way Kinsler should score plenty of runs ahead of Cabrera. He also should see great pitches as teams won't want to walk him and have a runner on base to be forced to pitch to Cabrera. Thus, I'd go over average, RBIs (barely) and runs but under the home runs.
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