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Fielder gets $214M from Detroit

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 25, 2012
— The longer Prince Fielder went into the off-season without a free-agent deal, the more some people figured he wouldn’t get the payday he was seeking.

Guess again.


Agent Scott Boras, as he has done so often, got a team to break the bank for an elite client again Tuesday when the Detroit Tigers gave Fielder a nine-year, $214 million contract—the fourth-largest in major-league baseball history.


This is why the Milwaukee Brewers never had a chance to keep their slugging first baseman. They knew all it would take was one team to give Boras/Fielder what they wanted, and the Tigers came out of nowhere to be that team after losing designated hitter Victor Martinez to a severe knee injury.


“Scott said from Day 1 he wanted $200 million,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “When you see this kind of number, we couldn’t get involved in that.”


The market had appeared to be closing in on Fielder as one interested team after another indicated it could not meet the asking price in terms of years and total money. Teams supposedly still in play included Washington, Baltimore, Seattle and Texas.


The Tigers jumped in after losing Martinez and made a move as stunning as the 10-year, $240 million contract the Los Angeles Angels gave St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols earlier in the off-season. Fielder now will play for the same club that employed his father, Cecil, though the two have been estranged for years.


As recently as last week, Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said a long-term deal with Fielder was “probably not a good fit.” The Tigers did not announce the agreement because it is contingent on Fielder passing a physical exam.


The Brewers had plenty of time to come to terms with losing the 27-year-old Fielder but it was still a bittersweet day for the franchise, according to Melvin.


“It’s somewhat of a sad day,” Melvin said. “Prince is one of the best young players in the game. You try to build teams around young, star players.


“I have posters of Prince at my house and pictures of him in my office. There were so many highlights with Prince. You remember his big hits. One thing about Prince, he always cared about winning. Winning was important to him.”


Because the Brewers offered Fielder salary arbitration as a free agent, they will receive Detroit’s first-round draft pick in June—No. 27—as well as a supplemental first-rounder. Milwaukee’s own pick is at No. 28.


“We knew the highest pick we were going to get was No. 16 (the first 15 are protected),” Melvin said. “For a player like Prince, you’d like to get higher picks. We had come to terms with this.”


Detroit already has an experienced slugger at first base in Miguel Cabrera but had no replacement at DH for Martinez. Now, the Tigers have the option of alternating Cabrera and Fielder at first base/DH or moving Cabrera back to his original position at third base.


The Tigers won the American League Central crown in 2011 and will be the favorite to do so again after signing Fielder. Detroit fell short of the World Series, losing to Texas in the AL Championship Series, but this move is a strong indication they plan to go further in 2012.


During six-plus years in Milwaukee, Fielder established himself as one of the most feared sluggers in the game. He batted .282 with 230 home runs, 656 runs batted in, a .390 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. In 2007, he became the youngest major-leaguer (23) to sock 50 home runs in a season.


Fielder was a major force in the Brewers’ surge to their first National League Central title last season, batting .299 with 36 doubles, 38 home runs and 120 RBI. He also was most valuable player in the All-Star Game, socking the decisive three-run homer that gave the NL home-field advantage in the World Series.


When Cecil Fielder played for the Tigers, he, too, was one of the game’s most feared sluggers. In 1990 and ‘91, he led the league with 51 homers and 132 RBI and 44 homers and 133 RBI, respectively.


Cecil often took his son to Tiger Stadium during his playing days in Detroit, and people still talk about 12-year-old Prince hitting one out in batting practice there. The father-son relationship disintegrated in recent years, however, eliminating the warm-and-fuzzy angle of both playing for the Tigers.


“That just shocked me… ,” Cecil Fielder told MLB Network channel on SiriusXM Radio. “That’s crazy. He’s going to come full circle. He was there in Detroit most of his young life so I think he’ll be comfortable in that place… .


“I know (Tigers owner Mike Ilitch) is probably excited because he has been wanting that kid since he was a little kid. So he finally got his wish.”



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