For the record this is a friendly debate between myself and Chuck Pittman on what would have been the better move with the benefit of hind site. Not to brag but I posted the Tigers would be in the Fielder hunt after Victor Martinez went down. I, obviously, will be taking the side of Prince Fielder and Chuck will take C.J. Wilson.
Corey D. Roberts (Prince Fielder):
The facts (also the occasional opinion):
For starters, in this debate let me first say that I totally respect Chuck and his baseball knowledge. I would also like to add that this may be an attempt on his part for an unconventional approach. With that being said, Chuck are you nuts? The comparison of these 2 players is like comparing Superman to Napoleon Dynamite. When a team has the chance to add a future all-time great and Hall of Fame candidate, you should never pass up that opportunity if its feasible. What makes this deal for Fielder a home run is he is joining forces with one of the top 2 right-handed sluggers in the midst of his prime. This gives Detroit an advantage over almost every single major league team they face. The righty/lefty combo also adds a nice value at the 3/4 spots in the batting order, for obvious reasons (I am assuming that all who read this are baseball knowledgeable, I would hope! LOL). The fact that they are 27/28 years old means that their best years will be at least the next 7 years, seeing as they both play in the AL and both at some point can man the DH/1B spots (even though Cabrera will man 3B for a while), which are less than demanding defensively. Now lets talk numbers that these 2 titans can/will produce over the next 7-9 years. Miguel Cabrera averages a .950 OPS, 38 doubles, 31 HR, 109 RBI per season, and has only batted under .320 twice (forgetting his rookie season in which he only played 80 games or so). Prince Fielder averages a .930 OPS, 33 HR, 94 RBI, and has had well over 100 walks in each of the last 3 seasons. Imagine what their numbers will look like hitting next to each other in the line-up. The truth is, numbers only say so much. There is not one pitcher in baseball that wants to face these two by themselves, let alone back to back in a line up. They both have the clutch factor to add to the rest of their talents, and could easily carry a team through a round or two of so-so pitching performances. Prince and Miggy are 2 hall of fame players who will be the best 3/4 duo in baseball for the next 6 years, and maybe of all time!
lets talk money:
This is a simple answer. Yes, the Tigers spent $130 million or so more on Fielder, and 4 more years than Wilson. How much revenue does Wilson generate by just showing up to the park? The answer is none! While Fielder cost a ton more, the Tigers will enjoy a big return on investment for that extra cash spent on him. I am sure ESPN, Fox, and TBS will be falling over themselves to nationally televise the Tigers. If they pass on Fielder and go after Wilson, something is telling me that those organizations would not react the same way!
Now here is where Chuck will hang his proverbial hat. Yes, Cabrera is an average fielder at best, and yes, fielder is not a gold glover. I can give you countless examples of players that were great defenders and no matter how much they tried, they were never on the same planet as these two gentlemen at the plate. On the other hand, I can name countless average defenders that worked their butts off and wound up winning gold gloves at the corner positions. Who is to say that Cabrera will be at 3B long anyway? The probability of them both being at the DH and 1B spots for the majority of their time together with Detroit is very likely. Defense is not and will not be a factor here.
Tigers team needs:
There is an argument when it comes to “depth” at starting pitching. While one could argue that Verlander is the best right-handed starter in the game, one could not argue that they have great depth at starter either. I do not see a clear number 2 on their staff. The question is, does Wilson give them a stud number two that most great teams need? The answer is an emphatic, NO! I could argue on many points that Scherzer will put up the same, if not better, numbers than C.J. Wilson this season. I will leave that to Chuck as to why I am a dope! I can see Detroit potentially having trouble with Anaheim if they meet in October. I do think they will need another stud starting pitcher to be a major contender for the World Series, but C.J. Wilson is not the answer.
In conclusion, the right decision was made by the Tigers management in going after a bona fide stud who plays every day. Prince will be an all time great. Passing on an average major league pitcher for a lofty 16 million a year, with no R.O.I. opportunity, was a wise decision.
Chuck Pittman (C.J. Wilson):
First off, thank you for the nice comments at the beginning of your post. I respect your opinion as well. With that being said…
From the offensive point of view, the lefty/ righty combination is something to marvel at indeed. We all know what these two have done up until this moment with the bat. My explanation as to why this was a bad decision will not be centered around that. As you have alluded, my argument will be aimed at 3 aspects:
#1: The defensive ramifications of this move
#2: The financial ramifications of this move
#3: What they should have done with the 200+ million
I will also address Corey’s ludicrous statement regarding CJ Wilson, and have a final point unmentioned before.
Let me take you back to 2007. You will notice that out of 22 qualifying 3rd basemen, Miguel Cabrera was 20th in fielding percentage in front of Ryan Braun (who no longer plays 3rd base), and Kevin Kousmanoff (who has been a complete bust of a prospect). Outside of Ryan Braun, Cabrera tied Zimmerman for the most errors as a 3rd baseman. Keep in mind that Zimmerman had 511 total chances, whereas Cabrera only had 389 chances, therefore it is safe to say that Cabrera was the worst defensive 3rd baseman in the big leagues.
Do you want me to believe that this guy can simply slide over to man the Hot Corner after a 4 year hiatus, and it’s not a big deal??? There are 3 aspects to baseball, gentlemen. They are pitching, defense, and offense. The San Francisco Giants recently proved that you can win a World Series by being great at pitching and defense and have an offense that is slightly better than a Triple A team, and every single year, the New York Yankees prove that stacking your team with High priced offensive players won’t win you anything in October. The cliché that “great pitching beats great hitting” is not a cliché, it’s a fact!!
It’s true that sponsorship-wise, they will make some of their money back, as you can expect to see a lot of the Tigers on National Television. If you know anything about money-ball, you must know something about buying wins. How many wins did this move actually buy? Last year the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers finished 1,2,3 in total runs scored with the Tigers following at the 4th position. Exactly what did this move do to change that?? The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers still have a better lineup. They still have a better pitching rotation than the Tigers. They might be slightly better than the Rangers pitching staff because they lost Wilson, but they did add Darvish and Feliz to their rotation so the book is still out for the Rangers.
My point is that overall, this move has done nothing to change the team in terms of overall improvement. The Tigers are still weak in their starting pitching rotation, and their offense is still a Top 4 offensive team. This move will give up more runs in the long-term, and by long-term I mean how long they signed Fielder for. Miguel Cabrera will eventually return to 1st base, and Fielder will move to DH. DH’ing is a bit harder than it seems. It’s not easy, and Fielder has no experience with it. When that time comes, we’ll see how he adapts. How much financial wiggle room will they have in the future by having Miggy and Fielder locked up for so much money until 2016?
CJ Wilson was a free agent this off-season. Since the owner wanted to spend some big bucks this off-season, it would have been a wise decision to spend that money on an actual team weakness i.e. Pitching!! Wilson actually got better in his 2nd year of starting by cutting his walks significantly down (93 to 74), and his strikeouts actually rose (170 to 206). That’s not normally how it goes. Usually more command = less strikeouts. They could have signed Wilson for 80 million/ 5 years which is basically the same contract they gave Verlander, and they still would’ve had plenty of cash to make another signing.
Corey said that Max Scherzer is equal to CJ Wilson, but I just don’t buy that. Scherzer is no young puppy either considering the fact he will be 28 this year. If you’re still waiting for a “Breakout year,” you will be sadly disappointed. He is what he is, and that is an inconsistent starter whom you should be terrified to see on the mound for your favorite team in the playoffs, however, as a #3 or#4 starter you should feel comfortable. CJ Wilson is as consistent as they come, and now this season he will be pitching in a Top 5 ball park for pitchers (in Anaheim) as opposed to pitching in the #1 Home Run hitting ball park (Texas).
To say that Max Scherzer is a better pitcher and/or fantasy option than CJ Wilson is a ridiculous statement. Waiting on a mythical “Breakout” campaign for Scherzer is even more ridiculous. The Tigers don’t have a #2 pitcher. Doug Fister isn’t the answer, and Scherzer damn sure isn’t either.
FINAL POINT/ CONCLUSION:
Granted, Fielder lost some weight this past off-season, but I think his overall physical fitness will always be a risk. When you add to the fact that Miggy’s physical fitness and prior alcohol problems is also a risk, this might shape up to be a disaster if certain things fall into place. To call Fielder a Hall of Fame caliber player is stretching it a bit. Fielder has alternated great seasons with average seasons despite having a great lineup-protecting, superstar batting side by side with him the last 4 years.
The Tigers would have been better off signing a starter like CJ Wilson. If they wanted a 1 year rental to DH until VMART comes back they could have signed Carlos Pena. Instead they went over board by locking up Fielder for close to a decade. We will see how this works out. In the meantime the Tigers will be an exciting team to watch that will put up a lot of runs, but what else is new? They were already a Top 4 offense. NOTHING HAS CHANGED!!.