Craig Remsburg column: Fielder trade may work for Tigers

Now we know how much the Detroit Tigers want to try to keep American League Cy Young pitcher Max Scherzer.

By trading slugger Prince Fielder and unloading his cumbersome contract, Tigers CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski will have a lot more financial flexibility to sign Scherzer to a long-term contact.

Fielder has seven years and $168 million left on his deal; Kinsler four years and $62 million remaining with a $12 million option in 2018. Even with the Tigers paying the Rangers $30 million as part of the trade, the club still frees up $76 million.

That should go a long way in enticing Scherzer to stay and Miguel Cabrera to re-sign when his deal is up in 2015.

The Fielder-Kinsler trade has several ramifications for Detroit.

Kinsler, 31, is a career .273 hitter and three-time All-Star who will replace free agent second baseman Omar Infante, saving Dombrowski even more money to work with by not re-signing Infante.

Cabrera can be moved back to first base; top prospect Nick Castellanos can take over at third, his natural position; and Dombrowski may be able to add a free agent closer or outfielder with some of the money he gained in the Fielder trade.

You can bet Dombrowski – who has a pretty good track record in getting the Tigers players needed to make the team not only competitive, but pennant and World Series contenders, as well – is not done in shaping the team’s roster this coming season.

There’s a concern with the Fielder trade, of course. He averaged .295 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs his two years with the Tigers. That kind of offensive production is difficult to replace.

Most importantly, Fielder covered Cabrera’s back by batting behind baseball’s top hitter. Cabrera got better pitches to hit with hurlers knowing Fielder was on deck.

It may not be a coincidence that Cabrera won back-to-back AL Most Valuable Player awards the two years Fielder was with the Tigers.

Victor Martinez won’t be the answer as the Tigers’ No. 4 hitter behind Cabrera. He’s a solid switch hitter, but with limited power.

Dombrowski will have to address the Tigers’ need for a leftfielder with power, speed, or both. He also needs to upgrade his bullpen, perhaps with a top-notch closer.

Trading Fielder was no doubt the first step in reshaping the Tigers so the club can make the World Series, if not this coming season, then for a couple of years to come.

The Fielder deal, though a bit of a shocker, makes sense.