Prince Fielder was once one of the most reliable First Baseman in baseball, but things have taken quite a turn for the worst
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
There was a time where Prince Fielder not producing well was unheard of, and Fielder being on the DL was even more unheard of. Fielder played 162 games three years in a row, and had never played less than 157 (outside of his rookie year where he played 39). Prince had never hit less than 25 homeruns, driven in less than 80 (in fact, had only driven in less than 100 twice), never hit below .260, had hit less than 30 doubles only once, and seemed as if he was well on his way to Cooperstown; then he was traded to Texas. The Detroit Tigers signed Prince in January of 2012, and what many thought would be a deal that helped Detroit win the World Series and would have pitchers staying awake at night trying to figure out how to pitch to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back-to-back went a slightly different way. Fielder had two very solid seasons in Detroit before being traded to the Texas Rangers in November of 2013, bringing an early end to everybody's hopes for what he could do in the same lineup as Miggy. The first season Fielder spent in Texas would end his incredible run of being the most healthy player in baseball, as he was limited to just 42 games where he performed poorly (.247/3 HR). On May 23rd of 2014 Texas placed Fielder on the DL for the first time in his major league career with a herniated disk in his neck, an injury many thought would be career ending for one of baseball's beloved superstars. Fielder pushed through the injury with the same determination he showed throughout his entire career, and returned in a huge way for Texas in 2015; Prince posted a .305 batting average, belted 23 HR, drove in 98, and doubled 28 times in 158 games in one of the most quietly difficult comebacks we have seen in a long time. However, 2016 has rolled around and again Prince has been placed on the DL. The Rangers DH started off the season incredibly slow (.207 with 2 HR in April), and it hasn't gotten any better since. While June saw him show some signs of heating up (.273, 4 HR), he fell off again in July and has again been placed on the DL with a herniated disk in his neck. While Fielder has shown the baseball world several times that it's foolish to doubt him, he is about to undergo season ending neck surgery once again. Sure, Fielder came back from this once, but that was insanely difficult the first time, a second time can only get tougher for a 32 year old. While his poor production this year will not be missed for the Rangers, the huge questions of his future are growing bigger every day.
Prince is signed through 2020 and is owed $72 million from Texas over those next four seasons ($24 million over the next four from Detroit). While at this point with the money he commands and the career he has had Texas is sure to hold on to him in hopes to get the Prince that we know over the final four years of his contract, but it's becoming more and more dangerous for them. Texas is in the thick of a pennant race (3.5 game lead in the AL West), and regardless of the production level Fielder has given them, and injury like this is the last news they need right now. Not only is Fielder supposed to be one of the key components to the Rangers offense, but if you are paying a player as much as they are and he is on the DL rather than producing it can really serve as handcuffs on any deadline deals you may want to make. Taking on more salary on a payroll that is already taking huge hits from an injured player is dangerous, and could seriously put your clubs future at risk. While yes, Texas wants to win now and may bite the bullet and add a piece anyway, they have been the most injury riddled team the last few seasons and if they pulled a trade that turns out to be a bust it could really be the straw that broke the camels back. Texas really doesn't have a whole lot of options on what to do with Prince other than wait it out and hope this injury doesn't have the serious ripple effects that it potentially could, but at this point they certainly need to be exploring any and every avenue available. This injury is not only career threatening to Prince, it is organization threatening for Texas.
"He rehabbed from it once and came back. With each additional surgery in that area it increases the risk involved and overall his ability to get back. But It's not for me to speculate" - Ranger General Manager Jon Daniels on Fielder's surgery