By Nick Shepkowski-
(WSCR) Prince Fielder is among the best left-handed hitters in baseball, and Cubs fans are excited today because of Tuesday’s news of the Detroit Tigers signing the All-Star first baseman out of the National League Central.
Cubs fans feel this way as Fielder has slugged 22 home runs while compiling 61 RBIs in 99 career games vs. the Cubs. Oh, and his career 1.003 OPS in Wrigley Field is nothing to be ashamed of either.
For obvious reasons like those numbers above Cubs fans should be thrilled to not have to see Papa-Prince 18 or so times a year. For not so obvious ones, Cubs fans should be thrilled as well.
With the signing of Prince Fielder, the Detroit Tigers have more than made up for the loss of Victor Martinez to injury and put themselves among the favorites to win the 2012 World Series.
Of course there is one thing the Tigers are still in desperate need of: starting pitching.
Sure, the Tigers have baseball’s best pitcher from a year ago in Justin Verlander. At 24-5 and an ERA in the mid-2’s he had one of the best seasons by a pitcher in recent memory. The mid-season acquisition of Doug Fister (8-1, 1.79 ERA w/ Detroit) proved large as the Tigers went 8-2 in his regular season starts. Beyond that though the Tigers starting rotation takes a quick dive.
Last year Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Brad Penny combined to make 95 of the 118 starts that Verlander and Fister didn’t make during the season. Sure, Verlander’s ERA was an astounding 2.40, but on average Scherzer, Porcello and Penny had a combined ERA of 4.80. Furthermore, Verlander’s 0.92 WHIP was needed to carry the 1.34, 1.40 and 1.56 WHIP’s that Scherzer, Porcello and Penny put up.
It would be a shame for Motown if Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Dave Dombrowski failed to address such a gaping hole that would be the likely reason for the Tigers to not make a World Series appearance.
With Prince Fielder under contract for nine seasons, perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera signed through 2015 and star switch hitter Victor Martinez signed through 2014 the corner-infield/DH spots appear to be filled for the foreseeable future in Detroit.
It just so happens that the Tigers have a piece that should thrill Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, as it would improve the Cubs rebuilding farm system that much more.
Nick Castellanos (3B) is listed by Baseball America as the second best prospect currently in the Tigers system. The 6-4, 195 pound 19-year-old was the Tigers supplemental first-round draft pick in 2010 and had tied for the second most doubles in the Midwest League last season.
Sure, he is a bit green and remains a couple of years away from contributing to a major league roster, but all signs point to him having very high potential, and his .367 OBP in his first full season in the minors only furthers that belief. Baseball America goes on to call Castellanos a potential future All Star.
With the Tigers still in need of pitching and the team facing loads of pressure to not just get to the playoffs but to win a World Series after signing Fielder, it would make all the sense in the world to me for Detroit to try and win now, and acquiring Cubs starter Matt Garza would play a huge role in accomplishing that.
Garza has made 30-plus starts in each of the last four seasons and offers an ERA that has never reached 4.00 in a full season of work, while averaging 195 innings pitched over the last four years. Say what you want about if he’ll ever be a true ace, Garza is a legit No. 3 that would make the Tigers that much more dangerous, especially in October.
It’s no secret that the Cubs tried working out a Garza deal with the Tigers earlier this off-season, and I can’t imagine interest on either side has subsided.
The Tigers having money locked in on Castellano’s third base position for years to come makes it hard for me to believe that they wouldn’t be willing to move him if it meant getting a piece as valuable as Matt Garza in return. The fact they are this close and are still in need of a legitimate No. 3 starter for the postseason makes me think it’s just a matter of time before the Tigers deal for a starting pitcher.
It probably wouldn’t be a straight-up deal, and I can’t tell you much about other Tigers minor leaguers that could potentially come in return for Garza, but the idea of potentially adding the first baseman of the future in Anthony Rizzo and maybe the third baseman for years to come in the same off-season should excite Cubs fans.
Now let’s just hope the executives in Detroit are thinking the same way I am.
Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer on the McNeil and Spiegel Show, weekdays 9a-1p on 670 The Score. You can follow Nick on Twitter @Shep670.