The Rangers will still sign Prince Fielder. Here’s why.

3. The in-house options are too risky.

Certainly, there is going to be pressure upon the Rangers front office to resign the faces of their ’10 and ’11 AL Championship teams, especially Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. However, there was pressure on them to resign Cliff Lee and C. J. Wilson as well, and they refused to overpay.

With Hamilton and Cruz, what you see is not what you get. Both are proper “five-tool” talents who have provided very memorable performances when the greatest number of eyeballs were fixed upon them: in All-Star Games, Home Run Derbies, and Postseasons. Their ability to rise to the occasion on the “big stage” will probably earn them additional millions when they hit the free agent market, but, what the casual fan probably won’t remember, and several GMs will choose to overlook, is that in the last three seasons the duo has missed a combined 259 games. In his six full seasons, Prince Fielder has missed thirteen games, and he’s at least three years younger than either Ranger slugger.

One can certainly make the case that when Cruz and Hamilton take the field they are more valuable than Prince. They play good defense at tougher defensive positions. They have speed and baserunning acumen. I don’t disagree. But…

259 to 13.

4. The timing is right.

If they sign Prince now, they will get one shot with the current roster, including Hamilton, Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, etc. A lot can happen between January and October, but they’d immediately become the odds-on favorite for the 2012 title. But, just as importantly, they’d have some payroll certainty at the core of the team, which would make future decisions a little easier. The Rangers will face decisions on Hamilton and Napoli at the end of the coming season, and on Kinsler and Michael Young the following year.

Thanks to the recent trend of signing the best arbitration-eligible hitters (Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, etc.) to lengthy deals, there’s not a hitter of Fielder’s talent, youth, and durability likely to hit the market for several seasons to come. If they pass on Fielder, the Rangers almost guarantee that they will be overpaying for an inferior older player at some point in the near future.

 

Matt teaches at The University of Alabama. Roll Tide. He specializes in American Literature and Rhetorical Economics. Fate chose for him the peculiar perdition of rooting for the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

5 thoughts on “The Rangers will still sign Prince Fielder. Here’s why.

  1. hugh

    Another nice piece, Hippeaux – thanks. You guys are turning out some good stuff at the moment. What you say here seems reasonable.

    Re payroll flexibility: your mentioning of the long-term commitments is interesting and the comparison with other clubs valid, i am sure. But I wonder if having the scope to spend money necessarily means spending it is the right or good option. More than Fielder, I am wondering about Darvish. With the posting fee, they're likely in for >$18mAAV over six years. This strikes me as a heck of a lot for a guy with zero MLB experience. It might pay off, it might not. As a three, maybe four, year gamble, I guess it might be OK. Six years sounds like the sort of contract term that might start to ruin a club like Texas if it was followed with some more contracts of similar generosity.

    • Hippeaux

      Fair point. Just because you don't have any albatrosses, doesn't mean you need one, but underlying the logic of this post is my belief that Prince is about as low-risk as a megastar free agent gets. He's as durable as anybody in the league. He's proven himself committed to taking care of himself (despite his figure). He plays a low-impact positon. He's hitting the market at a very young age. And, of course, he rakes. His constantly improving K rate and K/BB rate suggests to me that we still may not have seen his peak (especially if he moves to a slugger's paradise and is surrounded by other patient, intimidating hitter).

      The pressure is going to be on Texas to spend in the coming seasons. I think gambling on Prince is wiser than gambling on Hamilton, Cruz, David Wright, etc. The 2014 class will include Joey Votto and Robinson Cano, but they will both be substantially older than Prince is now (both are OLDER than Prince period). It's unlikely Cano is allowed to get to free agency and Votto has a (slightly) shakier injury history.

      Also, I probably should have included a #5 here:

      Presumably, the Rangers are not facing a bidding war with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, or Phillies, who all have first-basemen, nor with the Mets or Dodgers, who are in legal hell. That is unlikely to be the case if they hold out for another premier hitter a year or two down the line.

      • hugh

        Yup. I'm pretty cool with all that. And agree they're in a good position to do the deal right now. I was just thinking ahead and wondering if the Darvish deal means they might end up hamstringing themselves in the future just like the other teams you named!….

  2. laxtonto

    Just FYI, but it is sounding like the Rangers have already hit their escalators in their new pending TV deal and it is looking like it is going to hit the 20 yr 3B+ mark instead of the conservative 1.6B being thrown about.. Maury Brown has a couple of nice pieces on it..

    • Hippeaux

      Yeah, I read conflicting reports about that, but granted, if that's true, it only makes them more willing to shell out for Prince.

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