Rangers Offseason Guide: First Base
By John Phelan
Part two of our #RangersOffseasonGuide brings us to first base – more specifically, Prince Fielder.
In 2014, your Texas Rangers penciled 11 players into the lineup at first base, none producing enough or staying healthy enough to merit staying at the position. From Kevin Kouzmanoff to Donnie Murphy to Carlos Pena to Jim Adduci, each stopgap solution attempted by Ron Washington or Tim Bogar was ultimately thwarted by injuries or underwhelming production – or was it the baseball gods?
Which brings us to Mr. Body Issue himself, Prince Fielder. In the Offseason Guide series, I examine every option available to the Rangers’ Front Office this winter to improve the club while keeping their 2015 payroll in a manageable range. However, in this case, there is only one option – one hope. Help me Obi Wan Prince, you’re my only hope.
Prince Fielder played 42 games in 2014 between first-base and DH before hitting the disabled list with a faulty neck. Fielder, consequently, was compensated $24,000,000 for his efforts on the diamond, which breaks down as follows:
- $571,428 per game
- $8,000,000 per homerun
- $1,500,000 per run batted in
- $648,648 per hit
I think you get my point: the Texas Rangers vastly overpaid Prince Fielder for his production in 2014.
For the Rangers to make a significant jump in a greatly improved American League West, Fielder must return to his Milwaukee form where he hit 30 homeruns or more for six straight seasons (2007-2012). Not only are the Rangers desperate for meaningful production from their first baseman, but Fielder’s price tag demands it.
Fielder is owed $24,000,000 per season for the next six seasons, his age 31-36 years. The Rangers will pay Fielder $18,000,000 during the final five years and the Detroit Tigers will subsidize the remaining $6,000,000 as set forth in the trade agreement that sent Ian Kinsler to Motown.
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The Rangers have not produced a reliable first baseman since Mark Teixeira and have watched promising prospects like Justin Smoak and Chris Davis fizzle their way out of Arlington. Prince Fielder provides the light at the end of the tunnel – the power-hitting, run-producing, pitcher-intimidating middle of the order presence Rangers fans have been praying for since 2007.
Although 2014 seemed like a lost season for Fielder, there is upside.
First, in one-fourth of a regular season, Fielder’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was near even (24:25), the first time that has happened since 2012 in Milwaukee (84:85) where Prince batted .313 and slugged 30 homeruns. A combination of work with hitting coach Dave Magadan, batting in front of Adrian Beltre, and Shin-Soo Choo setting the selective tone at the top likely contributed to Fielder’s increased patience at the plate in 2014.
Second, the extended time off in 2014 provided Fielder with his first significant downtime in eight years of professional baseball. Since 2006, Fielder has never played less than 157 games per season and in the past three seasons, played the full 162 game slate. For a man who carries nearly 300 pounds, an extended downtime could be the remedy for what ails Prince Fielder.
Lastly, Prince Fielder’s reputation for being shy with the media and standoff-ish with teammates followed him to Texas. After a 2013 eliminating loss to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, Fielder told the Detroit media, “It’s not really tough, man. It’s over … I got kids I got to take care of, I got things I got to take care of. It’s over.” The quote rubbed media and fans the wrong way, claiming to show the disconnect of Fielder from the fans and the game.
However, Prince’s stay in Texas has yielded only positive results. During Spring Training earlier this year, Fielder told MLB.com, “First day I got here, everyone welcomed me … cracked some jokes, which makes me feel a part of everything. It’s been really cool … especially in baseball where you’re going to be together forever, it feels like. You have to at least like who you work with.” Ron Washington, a well-known player’s manager, created an environment of tight-knit team chemistry that took alleged distant teammates and turned them into productive players. It is a quality Tim Bogar or whoever takes the reigns in Texas must emulate.
Bottom line: We expect a lot from Prince Fielder and rightfully so. Fielder’s weighty salary and extravagant track record offer the Rangers fanbase hope for a 2015 season that sees the home team return to dominance.
Just stay off the magazine covers this year, okay?