Cubs

Fielder will earn 65,000 every day for 9 years

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Fielder will earn 65,000 every day for 9 years

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- 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 AL 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. CBS first reported the agreement with Fielder. The person told The Associated Press the deal was subject to a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet complete. 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. "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 AP. "But I don't think anybody thought it would be this big." 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." 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 the Brewers. 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. 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.

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

While the Cubs put the finishing touches on a lackluster loss to the Reds Monday night at Wrigley Field, the game quickly took a backseat as reports of a trade filtered through Baseball Twitter.

In came a veteran catcher — Martin Maldonado — from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Mike Montgomery, who will live on in Cubs history books forever as the guy who threw the curveball that notched the final out in the 2016 World Series to break a 108-year championship drought.

There are many layers to this move, including the corresponding aspect of Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras hitting the 10-day injured list with a strain in the arch of his right foot. Contreras had an MRI Monday afternoon/evening, which revealed the issue. 

Contreras felt like he could play through it and passionately pleaded his case, but the Cubs want to exercise an abundance of caution with one of their most important players.

"Our medical staff feels like if he were to try to play on it, that he'd be risking exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long-term," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "So we have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willy's hands and take him off his feet. 

"We don't expect it to be longer than 10 days — that's what we hope for, anyways."

But even before the severity of Contreras' injury was known, Epstein said the team was already in talks with the Royals front office.

"We've been having discussions with Kansas City and they had an opening in their rotation after trading [Homer] Bailey and they'd been talking to a couple teams about Maldonado and we knew that," Epstein said. "We'd actually been working on a version of the deal beforehand and it was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear that Willson was gonna miss some time."

That's interesting.

So the Cubs' interest in Maldonado is not solely based on Contreras' injury, which means they value the veteran catcher as more than just a short-term, couple-week insurance policy to pair with Victor Caratini. 

On the one hand, that leaves the Cubs free to trade Caratini over the next couple weeks if a deal developed.

But the move for Maldonado also shores up a major area of depth for the Cubs, which is exactly what Epstein talked about before Monday's game, referencing the change in MLB rules that eliminated the August waiver wire deadline. Now, every team has to make their moves ahead of the July 31 deadline and that's it.

"Teams need to keep depth in mind a little bit more, that you have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance — preemptively, really — knowing that there's no escape valve in August," Epstein said. "So you gotta really do all your work this month as much as possible and really take a hard look at your organizational depth."

Well, despite fantastic seasons from Contreras and Caratini, the Cubs actually have very little in the way of catching depth beyond those two. Taylor Davis is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster and he has almost no big-league experience. When Caratini was on the IL earlier this year with a hand injury, Davis rarely played in the month-plus he was on the roster.

Even if Contreras' injury is as minor as it appears, it underscores the point that the Cubs' depth is very fragile at the most physically demanding position on the field. What would the team do if Contreras or Caratini suffered an injury in August or September?

Now, they can add Maldonado into the mix — a veteran catcher who draves rave remarks for his defense and game-calling. 

The right-handed-hitting catcher is due to turn 33 next month and is in his ninth big-league season. He hasn't done much with the bat in his career (.289 on-base percentage, .351 slugging) and that hasn't changed this year (.647 OPS), but his work behind the plate was enticing to the Cubs and their veteran-laden pitching staff.

"He's an established catcher in the league who does a lot of great things behind the plate," Epstein said. "He can really receive, he can really throw. He's caught playoff games. He's handled some of the best pitchers in the game; he's a favorite for pitchers to throw to.

"He's very calm back there, very prepared, calls a great game, really soft hands, lot of experience, lot of savvy and someone who we think can step in and share the job with Vic and get up to speed really quickly in what we hope is a brief absence from Willson."

The Cubs haven't yet shared a plan for how they plan to manage the roster crunch for all three catchers when Contreras returns from injury in a week or two, but that might be because they don't yet have a plan. That's more of a "cross that bridge when it comes" type of situation.

When everybody is healthy — if everybody is ever healthy all at the same time — the Cubs could carry three catchers and utilize Contreras' ability to play the outfield and Caratini's first/third base versatility. They could also option Caratini to the minors for a couple weeks and bring him back up when rosters expand in September or if another injury strikes.

Either way, the Cubs front office, coaching staff and pitching staff can rest easier knowing they have another experienced backstop on the roster. 

The other aspect to all this, obviously, is in the Cubs bullpen and starting depth. Montgomery is out, which means there is an easy open spot on the roster for Alec Mills, who is making a spot start Tuesday while Cole Hamels continues to rehab his oblique injury.

In the longer term, this could be a good thing for the Cubs bullpen, as Montgomery was miscast and rarely used as a short-inning reliever. The 30-year-old southpaw last threw on July 2 and has only made five appearances in the last month. 

Montgomery was slowed by injury in spring training and then again in the first couple weeks of the season, but he had been building up his workload of late - throwing at least 2.1 innings in each of his last three outings. Still, the Cubs opted to go with Mills Tuesday against the Reds instead of Montgomery and they also had Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay in the rotation at various points earlier this season.

Montgomery hasn't started once in 2019, but he made 28 starts in a Cubs uniform, including 19 last year while filling in for the injured Yu Darvish.

The Cubs clearly feel good enough with their rotation depth as is (Mills, Chatwood, Alzolay) and Hamels' return looks to be right around the corner, so the writing was on the wall that Montgomery wouldn't get many chances to start in the short or long term in Chicago.

It's also good for Montgomery, a guy who got the last out in the World Series and did everything asked of him in his three-plus years in Chicago, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. 

Now he gets an opportunity to start, which he's been vocal about wanting to do, and he'll be thrown right into the fire — the Royals have him penciled in to start Friday...in Cleveland.

How's that for full circle?

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

When general manager Rick Hahn has talked about bringing up key prospects, he says he wants those players to be able to come up to the majors and stay there. That won't be the case with Zack Collins.

The White Sox sent the catcher down to Triple-A Charlotte following Monday's 5-2 loss to the Royals. No corresponding move will be made until Tuesday, but it is expected Welington Castillo will return from his rehab stint and rejoin the White Sox.

Collins was called up on June 18, but only played in nine games with seven starts in his 28 days on the big league roster. Collins drew a pinch-hit walk in his first plate appearance at the Cubs on June 19. He then homered two days later in his first start in Texas.

After that, Collins struggled. He goes back to Charlotte after hitting .077 (2-for-26) with five walks, the one home run and 14 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.

It's unclear if Collins had a chance to stick on the roster or if the plan was for him to go back to Triple-A once Castillo was ready to return. Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors at the plate, but he also didn't see regular playing time.

Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, was seen working out at first base in fielding practice before games, but he stuck to catcher and DH. He could have played some first base or DH when Castillo returned. However, the White Sox claimed A.J. Reed off waivers and he debuted after the all-star break. Reed has taken the at-bats at DH, leaving Collins without regular at-bats.

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