Nerd of Batman, sports, logic, objectivity, Star Trek, personal enlightenment, Lincoln, the Rays, psychology, mic dropping. Kind've in that order.
Posnanski's gotten a little finger pointy lately on stats, probably because of award season, but he's got some fine thoughts on the deal.
One specific statement had me saying HELL FRICKIN YEAH!
Which was it?
A. Giving out big contracts to players coming out of their prime is a loser. It just is. Josh Hamilton. Ken Griffey. Alfonso Soriano. Vernon Wells. Carlos Lee. Ryan Howard. On and on and on.
B. The Tigers did not need him but the thought of a Cabrera-Fielder middle of the lineup was mouthwatering.
C. They had to throw in $30 million to make it happen, but I still think they won. I think shoring up that infield so it isn’t a sieve, I think having some spending flexibility to work on actual weaknesses, I think Kinsler’s solid all-around play will all help.
D. So, they gave Fielder the big contract. That was the first thing. Second, they moved Miguel Cabrera to third base to make room for Fielder — one of those rare moves that makes a team drastically worse defensively at two positions.
E. But I think the Tigers won the deal. They had to throw in $30 million to make it happen, but I still think they won.
+++++ The answer is C. Undoubtedly C. +++++ Highlight that and you'll see the answer.
Extending Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer are not weaknesses.
Neither of those help the Tigers win a World Series as soon as possible.
I've been candidly bearish on Cabrera aging well, especially on a monster deal, but I think I've come up with a best case 'descent' for his abilities.
Previously I've referenced 'The Longoria.' I want to explain that, and retroactively apply it to a Tiger, to show you why it's the way to do business, if you're able, in today's MLB marketplace.
Evan Longoria was destined to be a star, unless he was a bust.
After being selected third overall by the Rays in the 2006 draft, Longoria quickly lived up to the high draft position and before the 2008 season he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
We know that prospects are no sure thing, and even the most hyped and touted ones go bust, but Tampa believed Longoria was a foundational piece to their rise to relevance. The downtrodden, miserly Rays took an epic financial risk in Longoria that became the beginning of their way of doing business and over the last six years helped them definitively become one of the five best teams in baseball.
The Rays have averaged over 91 wins per year over this eye opening six year stretch, most of which was spent in baseball's most competitive, and certainly it's most spendthrift division.
If the Rays doubled their budget, with how they draft, develop, trade and find successful paths for castoffs, I would choose them to win the World Series every year without hesitation.
Just a few weeks into the 2008 season where the Rays sought respectability, not knowing their season would end in October in the World Series, Tampa proceed with that risky commitment. If it failed, with how stingy the organization needed to be, who knows, they might've needed to be contracted, or moved with much haste.
The Rays recalled the 22 year old Longoria from Durham, obviously not proven at the Major League level, and graced him with a contract that would set him up for life.
It would also offer the Rays to cost control of the unpredictable arbitration years, and Longoria certainly would have priced himself straight out of Tampa if he'd ever encounter free agency.
Longoria signed for 6 years, a guaranteed $17.5 million, with the ability to make up $44.5 million.
The Opening Day payroll of Tampa in '08 was $43,820,597, only above the Marlins, who languished laughably at just over $21 million.
Elementary math shows you that if Longoria didn't even become HALF the player he was expected to be, the Rays would be Magellan up Siht's Creek.
The Tigers needed to trade Prince Fielder to ease the strain on their payroll so that when the time beckons them, they can at least consider resigning or extending anyone from Max Scherzer all the way down to Alex Avila.
I know, you really couldn't care much about anyone else but Scherzer and Cabrera, and you know my feelings on continuing their careers as Tigers.
I realize that the Tigers had no need for the business model that the Rays employ, but for the sake of this exercise - and because what Detroit fan doesn't love a chance to second guess - think how they might have dodged these tricky financial decisions surrounding their current Cy Young and MVP award winners if they'd began the practice the Rays made a savvy trend around MLB.
Upon his arrival from Arizone, did Scherzer EVER give the Tigers any hint that something like this past season's success could be in the future? Maybe.
At 25, Max's first season with the Tigers, he had an ERA of 3.50, a WHIP of 1.24 and notched an impressive 3.3 WAR. With free agency still four full seasons away, why WOULD the Tigers have given Scherzer a pen to sign a comfortable, but not exorbitant, contract right then and there? The Tigers didn't do business that way, plus it was just one season from a guy who may or MAY NOT HAVE harnessed his potentially dominant arsenal.
At 26, in 2011, if the Tigers HAD been considering an extension, it seemed to be prudent they hadn't given one to Scherzer. His ERA ballooned almost a full run, his WHIP up a tenth, strikeouts down, and lost two full games of WAR.
When so much can go awry with an arm, I can see why it'd be disconcerting to guarantee a pitcher any number of millions, for more than 5 years so early in their careers. But if after nearly 400 innings as a Tiger in '10 + '11 what if they'd had the clairvoyance of his success to come and offered him 5 years and let's say $40 million dollars. Max, still in arbitration years, made $600,000 in '11 and was going to earn $3.7 million in '12. The Tigers risk Max's career going the route of Mark Prior, but that's always the fear with anyone throwing a baseball overhand, but they could have also saved themselves a financial conundrum of tens of millions in the future.
That proposed deal would've kept Scherzer a Tiger for the next three years; '14-'16. He wouldn't have made a 1/3 of what his impending deal will bring him, but $40 million in the bank with the uncertainties of health and results ahead is something to seriously contemplate for a player. If it had been offered. It wasn't, and that's just fine. This is simply an exercise.
If you like what you see, and you believe Player X has the skills, both physical and mental, sometimes the financial risk of a lengthy commitment to a young player winds up saving you anguish down the road. The road takes you to exactly the fork where the Tigers stare now. Trade Max for assets, lessening your shot at a World Series next year, keep him another year & lose him for a draft pick, or resigning him to a deal he couldn't possibly live up to.
If the Tigers don't extend Scherzer or Cabrera before the end of the 2014 season, and Castellanos performs as Dombrowski has always hoped, then it should be a main priority to give serious thought to offering the young player 'The Longoria.' If not in year one, then after year two. Give him the guarantee early, and push his free agency past his physical peak, and let another team pay for his decline with an outlandish contract.
This isn't being cheap. It's the wise way of sustaining a successful business. The Tigers are definitely that in this moment, but it can go bad in a hurry.
Examples of 'The Longoria'.
Paul Goldschmidt 5 year extension $32 million and an option for $14.5 more in 2018. He's going to be a perennial NL MVP candidate and will never earn more than that 14.5. Alex Rodriguez earns twice that. Sorry, but...LOL.
The Cubs may regret this, but the investment was small wouldn't ravage the bottom line. Anthony Rizzo got a 7 year, $41 million dollar extension. If he ever hits free agency, he'll be no younger than 30.
Buster Posey, 8 years, $167 million. The Giants waited, it'll look murky late in the deal, but they won't lose Posey. For some reason, I feel this deal is far better than the extension the Twins gave Joe Mauer.
Evan Longoria got his own Longoria. 6 more years and another $100 million.
Andrew McCutchen will never be paid more than $14.7 million during his contract.
I'd say that Madison Bumgarner is a future NL Cy Young winner, and he'll never earn more than $12 million a year on his extension runs through 2019.
Gio Gonzalez wasn't a Cy Young candidate this year, as he was in '12, but his deal through 2018 will never make him more than $12 million a year.
It wasn't wrong for there to be discussion about the Angels giving Mike Trout a lifetime deal before he begins to sniff arbitration and ultimately free agency. He could be more than a quarter billion dollar player by that time.
Give The Longoria to Castellanos, not the A-Rod of Verlander to Cabrera and Scherzer. It may devastate the business.
After Victor Martinez turned his knee into a joint of mostly useless ligaments, the Tigers got bullied into a questionable contract, that became an abhorrent one. It wasn't Dave Dombrowski being pushed around by Scott Boras, it was Mike Ilitch.
Without a replacement for Martinez to the caliber of Prince Fielder, the Tigers are unlikely to reach the 2012 World Series. They needed Fielder, and he was young enough, and DH-able enough towards the end of the timeline where the 9 & 214 wasn't THAT jarring upon first taste. Things change over 22 months.
To do more than just reach the Series in the fast approaching twilight primes of Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers had to do everything they could to escape the three glaring negatives that turned Fielder into an unbearable cross.
1. The contract with $168 million dollars remaining over 7 years was choking the payroll, and to a lesser degree doing the same to the Tigers options at four positions; LF, 1B, 3B, and DH.
2. Finding piece amid his domestic situation, Fielder's offense, especially in Arlington, is sure to rebound, but will his defense do the same? If it does, the level of it will leap from '13s unacceptable to the future's barely sufficient. This deal means it's likely only 1/4 of the Tigers infield will be poor, rather than half.
3. Sample size is important to me, 39 games, 164 plate appearances and a .620 OPS is enough for me to say that just isn't something the Tigers can manage around from their cleanup hitter in the postseason. You wouldn't hit Ramon Santiago fourth during the season, with Fielder, you were essentially doing that in October.
After all this manifested itself, it's clear the Tigers small error of wound, changed into something that needed amputation. The surgery required an NBA-themed trade - you take my problem, I'll take yours - to reestablish a financially traversable path to winning a World Series.
Because of the size of his contract, by no means is the acquisition of Ian Kinsler a complete liquidation of all that's attached to Fielder, so it's crucial not to make future errors that will double in size as the calendar sheds years.
They have two bellwether moments to either allow history to repeat itself, or exercise the discretion they've hopefully learned from the $214 million baby albatross turned baby eating vulture signed back in January of 2012.
Both should be future ex-Tigers.
If my math is correct, even with the Tigers sending $30 million to Texas (I've said they'd have to pay all along), they've saved themselves about $76 million dollars over the years.
There's at least 62 remaining with Kinsler, add the 30, and subtract that 92 from Fielder's remaining 168.
I wouldn't put much of those estimated savings towards Scherzer or Cabrera. In fact, I might not put any in their pockets.
Scherzer will be 30 when he enters free agency. I would expect his megacontract will be very comparable to the numbers Zack Greinke signed for with Los Angeles last year. $147 million over 6 years.
That, with Verlander and Sanchez is too rich for me.
Verlander. Sanchez, who could be a bargain with at least $66 million remaining over 4 years, and either Porcello or Fister (who won't be cheap, but it won't be Max money either) and Smyly and the prayer that a young arm moves through the system is a fine starting five.
You simply can't keep resigning your stars. That's why it's imperative to draft and develop, draft and develop, draft and develop.
If you're not concerned that Cabrera's sports hernia injury isn't a harbinger of future ailments, then you're wrong. Age wise, he is beyond his peak physical years. That doesn't mean he's going to tumble to even a .280 hitter, but Albert Pujols' recent ailments have me envisioning a painful track that Cabrera could travel.
His current deal ends after two more seasons. Let's say the Tigers extend Cabrera RIGHT NOW. $75 million over 3 additional season. That's probably even too consevative. You can do the AAV math. In 2016 Cabrera would finish the season at 33, then 34 in '17, and 35 in '18. Sorry for the first grade math, but you need to actually see and digest those numbers to understand my rationale.
33, 34, 35. Paralleled to those years, the young slugger who the Tigers absolutely would not part with, Nick Castellanos, will be 24, 25 and 26.
Now I will convince you that paying Cabrera is at least a risk, at most ludicrous.
Of the top 20 position players in WAR in 2013 was 27.6. Without the RAMPANT PEDs in the game, being better than those 5 years younger than you, when you're 32 and beyond, just isn't feasible anymore. If it does occur, it's a complete outlier.
Even though I still wouldn't pay any closer $8+ million, there's more room for the Tigers to do that, but for no more than 2 years. Perhaps a third option year. Depending who plays where, they could use the savings this year on a LF, 3B, even 1B.
The Fielder catharsis has given them some flexibility. It was priority #1 for me this offseason. I'm glad Dave Dombrowski had the same minority thought I had; Fielder's not immovable.
What should become the next major priority, assuming he's all many have said he can be, is after an accomplished rookie year, is using some of those Fielder savings and not tapping further into free agency, but inexpensively buying out Castellanos' arbitration years and a some of his free agency. I like to call that 'The Longoria.' Those are the sagaciuos economics of the game now. Buster Posey, Matt Moore, Anthony Rizzo are other examples. Project well, pay more now, rather than take a much costlier risk of giving tens of millions to a post prime player.
There are two possible decisions at the Tigers' financial fork in the payroll.
One way turns you into the Phillies, who spent lavishly, didn't develop and are now closer to letting the Marlins pass them, rather than retaking the East from the Braves and Nationals.
The other direction allows you to let your star free agents depart, you bring along cheaper young talent to fill the void, a savvy, short free agent pick up here and there and the annual contender keeps rolling along with a few foundational pieces. Here, probably Verlander, Sanchez, Iglesias and Castellanos.
With the Fielder move, the Tigers took a step in the direction where the Cardinals reside.
Resigning Scherzer, and/or extending or resigning Cabrera is a step towards Philadelphia.
You'll need a parachute.
One last thing, don't EVER play poker with DD. How he wasn't bawling in hysterical tears preaching confidence in Hernan Perez as a viable starting second baseman was Machiavellian.