Discussion

The ripple effects of Fielder's deal

Updated: January 25, 2012, 10:54 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Executives host exhaustive meetings of scouts and evaluators to discuss big-picture visions and make long-term plans. But the two biggest deals of this winter have all the appearance of half-billion dollar impulse buys -- which is an owner's prerogative.

Within a span of 36 hours, the Los Angeles Angels put together a $246 million offer for Albert Pujols. Similarly, the Detroit Tigers reacted to a season-ending knee injury to Victor Martinez by handing out the fourth-biggest contract ever to Prince Fielder. What the Tigers did is like fixing a blown tire by buying a Hummer with monster-truck wheels.

When deals of this size are made, there are many ripple effects:

1. Detroit's long-term payroll obligations

Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is 82 years old, and he is the worthy heir to George Steinbrenner as The Owner Most Likely To Pay For A Championship. He's writing the Fielder checks, and the dollars and cents don't have to make sense to anybody but him. But if there is a time in the next three or four years when Ilitch isn't making the decisions, the Tigers could get crushed under the weight of their enormous payroll bubble. Most of the rust belt teams have payrolls in the range of $60 million to $90 million, and because of Ilitch's desire to win, the Tigers have typically committed anywhere from $110 million to $140 million.

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