BOSTON -- Well, now, baseball’s hot stove just blew a gasket, didn’t it?
Wednesday night’s huge (what other word do you use for a transaction involving Prince Fielder?) deal between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers -- Fielder to Texas, Ian Kinsler to Detroit -- could have a ripple effect on the Red Sox.
For one, it may take the Rangers out of the bidding for free agent first baseman Mike Napoli, although it’s still conceivable that the Rangers view Napoli as an ideal complementary bat to the left-handed hitting Fielder, who could DH while Napoli plays first. The Rangers ranked 14th in the league in OPS at first base (.700) -- only the Yankees were worse -- and they were slightly worse at DH (.698, ninth in the league).
The Rangers also were thought to be on the margins for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but taking a contract that pays Fielder $24 million a year through the 2020 season would seemingly be a deterrent to GM Jon Daniels adding another $20-million-plus per year in Ellsbury. The Rangers have two outstanding outfield defenders in Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry, so it would seem they would be better served going after catcher Brian McCann.
Still, as assistant GM Thad Levine noted last week, the Rangers entered the winter with 10 free agents, which leaves them a lot of holes to fill and a good deal of flexibility to fill them. And while Fielder’s contract was a load, Kinsler was paid $13 million last season and was due for an increase to $16 million in 2014.
The Tigers, meanwhile, made it known last week at the GM meetings that contrary to speculation, they are not in the market for Ellsbury. Moving Fielder wouldn’t seem to alter that. The Tigers' priroities remain re-signing pitcher Max Scherzer and extending two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, whose current deal runs out after the 2015 season.
The Sox played at least a small part in setting the stage for this deal. Fielder was a profound disappointment in the postseason, batting just .182 with only one extra-base hit against the Sox in the ALCS, and failed to drive in a run in his last 18 postseason games for the Tigers, dating to Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS against the Yankees.