Source: Tigers to sign Prince Fielder

Updated: January 25, 2012, 11:33 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Detroit Tigers and slugger Prince Fielder have agreed to a nine-year, $214 million deal, a source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.

CBSSports.com and Yahoo! each had earlier reported the deal between the Tigers and the free-agent first baseman.

Detroit boldly stepped up in the Fielder sweepstakes after the recent knee injury to star Victor Martinez. A week ago, the Tigers announced that the productive designated hitter could miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL during offseason conditioning.

Even though he never expected to re-sign Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin called his departure "somewhat of a sad day," in comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Melvin said the Brewers never made Fielder an offer once the team found out the terms that agent Scott Boras was seeking.

"Scott said from Day 1 it was going to be $200 million," Melvin told the newspaper. "When you hear those kinds of numbers, we couldn't get involved in that. All I can say is we had the feeling it was going to be very difficult to keep him."

The Tigers won their division by 15 games before losing in the American League 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 since 1984.

"Everyone knew Mr. Ilitch and Mr. Dombrowski were going to make a move when Victor went down," outfielder Brennan Boesch said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "But I don't think anybody thought it would be this big."

Ace Justin Verlander chimed in on Twitter.

"Was on the golf course when I heard... Wasn't playing too well at the time. The prince news turned my day around!" Verlander tweeted.

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, and young Prince made a name for himself by hitting prodigious home runs in batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

A few years ago, when Prince returned to Detroit as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline recalled that power show.

"You can't ever say that you look at a kid that age and say that you know he's going to hit 40 or 50 home runs someday, but Prince was unbelievable," Kaline said then. "Here's a 12-year-old kid commonly hitting homers at a big league ballpark."

In an interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Cecil Fielder said he was "shocked" by the news that Prince was heading to Detroit.

"He's been there in Detroit most of his young life so I think he'll be comfortable in that place," Cecil Fielder said. "I know Mr. Ilitch is probably excited because he's been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish."

The addition of Fielder would mark an about-face for the Tigers and Dombrowski, who last week said the first baseman and his team weren't a good fit because Boras likely wouldn't consider a one-year contract.

"Of course we'd consider Prince Fielder," Dombrowksi said last Thursday, according to MLive.com. "But realistically, it's probably not a good fit."

With Cabrera and Fielder, Detroit will begin this season with two players under age 30 with at least 200 career homers. According to STATS LLC, that's happened only once before. At the start of the 1961 season, the Milwaukee Braves featured 29-year-old Eddie Mathews (338 homers) and 27-year-old Hank Aaron (219).

Several teams had shown interest this winter in Fielder, who had spent his entire career with Milwaukee. He visited Texas, and the Washington Nationals also got involved in the discussions.

The beefy slugger 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 event in Phoenix.

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.

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).

Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated last week he'd probably seek a short-term solution to Martinez's injury, but he left himself some wiggle 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 Verlander to a five-year deal in early 2010, then added Martinez and standout reliever Joaquin Benoit last offseason.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.