Signing Fielder long-term doesn’t make fiscal sense

For one year, signing Prince Fielder is a great move.

For eight or nine years, it’s fiscal insanity for the Detroit Tigers.

Everybody can appreciate how badly Mike Ilitch wants to win a World Series. He told me once that he would gladly sacrifice some — but not all — of his Stanley Cups for one ticker-tape parade celebrating a Tigers championship. But if multiple reports stating that the Tigers are very close to inking a long-term deal with the slugging first baseman prove correct, Ilitch will be guilty of the same mistake he made prior to the 2008 season.

He put pieces together, threw them against the wall and hoped they’d stick.

They didn’t. That season was an unmitigated failure.

It makes absolutely no sense paying two guys who basically are the same player more than $45 million annually. And anyone who thinks Miguel Cabrera “easily” could move to third base or leftfield, do you need a reminder of how badly that played out in 2008?

Fielder more than compensates for the loss of Victor Martinez this season. He and Cabrera can split time between first base and designated hitter. Putting Fielder in the No. 5 spot in the batting order would give the Tigers perhaps the most explosive middle of the lineup in baseball. It not only makes them the prohibitive favorite in the American League Central but one darn tough out in the playoffs.

But didn’t we say the same things heading into 2008, when the Tigers finished last in the division?

It’s fine for impulsive fans and media to look these situations from a narrow perspective and concentrate on how this helps the Tigers right now. But Ilitch and general manager Dave Dombrowski must balance the present with the equally important future.

What happens when Martinez returns in 2013?

What do you do with three defensively limited, slow-footed players you’re collectively paying almost $60 million? That’s $60 million for three players. The base paths would need an emergency bypass with all the clogging. It’s nuts for an organization that admitted its mistakes in attempting to spend as freely as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Perhaps there are other concerns. Although Cabrera certainly looked and sounded happy during the Winter Caravan last week, are the Tigers concerned he might stumble again off the field?

At first blush, it looks like Ilitch has made a win-now-or-else proposition to his team. But in doing so, he might have risked messing up the chemistry that made this team so compelling a year ago.

Where’s that World Series trophy from 2008?


Posted by Tribune News Services

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