Major league notebook: Prince Fielder gets a fat deal in Detroit; Jorge Posada retires
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."
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