Fielder entered free agency as a tremendous offensive leader in the American League. In January 2012, he signed with the Detroit Tigers for a huge 9 year $214 million. He had two productive years in Detroit. He drove over 100 runs in each year with 30 and 26 home runs. MIguel Cabrera credits having Fielder in the lineup forced opponents to pitch to himself leading to a year where Cabrera won the triple crown. Led by these two hitters the Tigers made it to the World Series where they were swept by the Giants. At the end of 2013 he had played in 831 of his last 832 games.
THE BIG TRADE
Despite the numbers, things were slipping for Fielder. His poor fielding and base-running dropped his WAR to an average of 3.5 a season which is good but not worth $214 million. The Tigers had defensive problems with Fielder at first and Cabrera at third. Also Fielder had his worst season in 2013. He hit .279 with only 25 home. The answer was a trade with the Rangers. The Rangers had missed the playoffs by 1 game in 2013. When the Tigers included $30 million in a trade for Ian Kinsler, it was a deal they decided to take.
Although he was only 27 years old, Fielder’s health took a bad turn in his first year with the Rangers. He underwent neck surgery in June ending his season. He finished his first year with the Rangers playing only 42 games and batting .247 with only 3 home runs.
Fielder was under pressure to make a comeback to justify his huge contract. He made a nice come back playing in 158 games. He batted .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBIs. While these were a great improvement, they were not the large numbers of a few years ago.
In 2016, Fielder was one of the worst hitters in baseball. He batted .212 with only 8 home runs in 89 games. In July, it was discovered that he had C-4 and C-5 herniations in his neck. The injury prevented him from playing baseball again.
Rather than retiring and forfeiting his contract Fielder has been on the 60 day disabled list since. The Rangers are paying $9 million, the Tigers $6 million and the rest by insurance.
It is a shame when health ends a great player’s career. However, evaluating solely on money paid versus performance the $214 million contract was never validated. He had a great year and a good year with Detroit. He had one good year in Texas and that is sadly the end of his powerful career.