DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers responded to a jarring injury with an audacious move.
Free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder and the Tigers agreed Tuesday to a nine-year, $214 million contract that fills the American League Central champions' need for a power hitter, a person familiar with the deal said.
Detroit boldly stepped up in the Fielder sweepstakes after the recent knee injury to star Victor Martinez. A week ago, the Tigers announced the productive designated hitter could miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL during offseason conditioning.
The Tigers won their division by 15 games before losing in the AL championship series to Texas. Adding the 27-year-old Fielder gives the Tigers two of the game's premier sluggers, pairing him with Miguel Cabrera.
With Fielder now in the fold, general manager Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch have a team that figures to enter the 2012 season as a favorite to repeat in the division — with an eye on winning the franchise's first World Series title since 1984.
The move also keeps Fielder's name in the Tigers' family. His father, Cecil, became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season.
Now is son Prince is a beefy slugger who hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs last season. He is a three-time All-Star and was the MVP of last year's game.
Fielder has averaged 40 homers and 113 RBIs over the past five years. He's also been among the most durable players in the majors, appearing in at least 157 games in each of the last six seasons.
Fielder hits left-handed, while Cabrera is a righty. Manager Jim Leyland will get to decide where to put them in the batting order.
"I don't think there's a better right-left combo in any lineup in baseball," Boesch said. "I'm sure Skip's wheels are already turning on how to set them up."
The deal is only the fourth $200 million contract in baseball history, following Alex Rodriguez's $275 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees, A-Rod's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas and Albert Pujols' $240 million, 10-year contract last month with the Los Angeles Angels.
Among current players, Fielder's $23.78 million average salary is behind only A-Rod ($27.5 million), Ryan Howard ($25 million), and Cliff Lee and Pujols ($24 million each).
Dombrowski indicated last week he'd probably seek a short-term solution to Martinez's injury, but he left himself some wriggle room, saying it depended who the replacement was.
Acquiring Fielder opens all sorts of possibilities. For now, Detroit has an opening at DH with Martinez out. But Martinez is in the second year of a $50 million, four-year contract.
One option could be to move Cabrera from first base to third. He played third base regularly for the Florida Marlins before the Tigers acquired him before the 2008 season.
Third baseman Brandon Inge has one year left on a two-year, $11.5 million deal with Detroit.
The Tigers reached the World Series in 2006, but they appeared to be in cost-cutting mode when they traded popular center fielder Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees after the 2009 season.
It turned out they were simply re-allocating resources. They quickly signed ace Justin Verlander to a five-year deal in early 2010, then added Martinez and standout reliever Joaquin Benoit last offseason.
YANKEES' POSADA RETIRES: Jorge Posada was watching television when he saw speculation on which teams were interested in signing him as a free agent.
"They put my face on different uniforms," he said. "And it didn't look good."
He began as a Yankee and ended as a Yankee, spending his entire career in pinstripes.
Flanked by his wife and children, with five World Series trophies sitting on a table to his right, the five-time All-Star catcher retired at age 40 on Tuesday after 17 major league seasons. He finished with a .273 career batting average, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBIs.
Posada joins Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte in retirement, leaving only 37-year-old Derek Jeter and 42-year-old Mariano Rivera from the core group that led the Yankees to four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000.
"Mariano said this is it. He says one more year. But Derek says he's got like three more to go. So we'll see," Posada said, adding he didn't expect the great closer to quit after next season.
"I don't think about it right now. But the time will come," Rivera said. "Definitely the time will come when I'll have to just admit it and hang (up) the glove and the uniform and move on. We all go through that."
Jeter, the Yankees' captain and leader, expects to outlast Rivera.
"Mo's still got to go first. He's a lot older than me," he said before adding with a laugh: "Mo's going to be here longer than all of us."
Shrieking at success and fuming over failure, Posada often was nuclear fission at the center of the Yankees and what became known as the Core Four. While Jeter and Rivera rarely reveals their feelings, and Pettitte does only on occasion, Posada has been a passionate open window into the Yankees, praising, strutting, venting and battling.
"We feel the same way; I'm just better at hiding it. But we feel the same way inside, and I think that's why we've gotten along so well throughout the years," said Jeter, who first played alongside Posada in the minors in 1992.
He has called him "Posado" for years, ever since late Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard mispronounced his name when he pinch ran for Wade Boggs in Game 2 of the 1995 AL playoffs.
In the same room where Pettitte announced his retirement 111/2 months ago, select season ticket holders were invited to sit in the audience.
Posada talked with great fervor about the team that drafted him on the 24th round in 1991.
"Every time I step through the Yankee Stadium doors," Posada said, "I quoted Joe DiMaggio and said, I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee."
"I could never wear another uniform. I will forever be a Yankee."
Posada's voice broke up, especially when he spoke in Spanish. He thanked his teammates, rubbing his chin three times and wiping his eyes. He called Rivera "my brother" and praised Jeter "who helped me stay focused and positive."
"Hopefully you won't miss me that much," he said.
Diana Munson, wife of the late Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, spoke admiringly of Posada, who kept a quote from her husband in his locker: "Batting fourth and being in the lineup is important, but I think the stuff I do behind the plate is more important." One day at Yankee Stadium, Posada sat next to her and told her about his admiration for the former captain, who died in a plane crash when Posada was 7. She wound up following Posada in the box scores.
"He in fact is the one who brought me back to baseball again. After losing Thurman, I kind of lost my heart for baseball," she said. "He plays the game I think the way Thurman played it: a lot of grittiness, lot of toughness. ... I think he and Thurman would have been best buds. He definitely has the it factor. I can't describe it. I don't know what it is. But I knew immediately upon meeting him that he had it, and I think the Yankee fans also have realized that, and I imagine they're as sad today as we all are."
She was followed by a video of fan tributes and by Lisa and Brett Niederer from Bristol, Wis. She talked about the Jorge Posada Foundation and its emotional support and financial assistance to families affected by craniosynostosis, a disease that causes bones in the skull to fuse prematurely.
Jorge Jr. has had nine operations, and Lisa Niederer was watching on television when the father and son went onto the field together during the introductions for the 1992 All-Star game. Brett, then 21/2, was diagnosed the disease around the start of that year, and they talked about the Posada family's assistance.
"I knew we were not alone anymore," said Lisa, who has become a mentor for the foundation.
When the focus returned to baseball, Posada recalled how he started his professional career as a shortstop, was moved to second base and was asked by the Yankees to move to catcher after the 1991 season.
"I felt like it was the worst decision ever," he said, remembering all the passed balls he allowed while catching top draft pick Brien Taylor. "It was not a pretty sight."
He went on to have one of the better offensive careers by a catcher. The switch-hitting Posada made the decision to retire during a season that turned tumultuous May 14 when he was batting .165 and was dropped to No. 9 in the batting order against Boston. He asked to be taken out of the lineup, saying he wasn't ready to play.
Posada rallied to hit .268 for the rest of the season, leaving him with a .235 average, 14 homers and 44 RBIs. And then on Sept. 21, his two-run pinch-hit single beat Tampa Bay to clinch the AL East and earn another huge ovation. He hit .429 (6 for 14) in the five-game loss to Detroit in the division series.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman said that was just a blip in his career — part of Posada's fiery disposition, the one that drew fans to him, one that he may take with him into coaching or managing — after the Yankees likely honor him with a tribute this year.
That nature caused him to tell his agents not to negotiate with other teams.
"They kept saying that people are asking about you," Posada said. "I'm like — not interested."
LINCECUM, GIANTS REACH AGREEMENT: Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants reached a verbal agreement Tuesday on a two-year contract worth $40.5 million.
The deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $18 million this year and $22 million in 2013, a person familiar with the agreement said Tuesday.
Lincecum had asked for a near-record $21.5 million in salary arbitration and had been offered $17 million by the club. He remains eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.
The 27-year-old right-hander, the winning pitcher in the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010, earned $13.1 million last season when he finished a two-year deal worth $23.2 million.
PENA RETURNS TO RAYS: Slugger Carlos Pena is excited about returning to the Tampa Bay Rays and bolstering hopes for another run for the playoffs.
The 33-year-old first baseman officially rejoined the team he helped advance to the postseason in 2008 and 2010 after passing a physical Tuesday. He agreed to a $7.25 million, one-year deal last week after spending 2011 with the Chicago Cubs.
"I have so many great memories here. I look forward to creating even better ones," Pena said during a news conference at Tropicana Field. "I'm very optimistic about what the future holds for me, but most importantly for the ballclub."
Pena played for the Rays for four seasons from 2007-10, averaging 36 home runs, 102 RBIs and 93 walks. He was the AL comeback player of the year in 2007 and an All-Star in 2009.
COLON SIGNS WITH ATHLETICS: The Oakland Athletics and free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon have agreed to terms on a $2 million, one-year contract, bolstering their depleted starting rotation.
The team made the announcement Tuesday. The sides had an agreement last week pending a physical.
The 38-year-old Colon, a former A's nemesis during his four-year stint with the AL West rival Angels from 2004-07, went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 appearances and 26 starts last year for the New York Yankees in his 14th big league season. He won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award.Comment on this story
MARTIN, YANKEES REACH DEAL: All-Star catcher Russell Martin and the New York Yankees avoided salary arbitration Tuesday when they agreed to a $7.5 million, one-year contract.
The deal, announced Tuesday, was $100,000 under the midpoint between the $8.2 million he had asked for in arbitration and the $7 million the Yankees had offered when proposed salaries were exchanged last week. Martin also can earn performances bonuses.
Martin hit .237 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs last year for the Yankees, who signed him after the Los Angeles Dodgers failed to offer a contract. He had a $4 million base salary and earned $1,375,000 in performance bonuses.