DETROIT – With Prince Fielder out for the season, there is no doubt the Rangers injury situation has reached "critical mass," or a "tipping point," or "Defcon 1" or whatever other buzz phrase fits your own personal vocabulary.
And there is a lot to consider about the entire situation, so let's try and tackle some of those questions with the facts and background at hand.
Q: Did the Rangers' err in not giving Fielder a physical before consummating the trade?
A: In theory: Yes. When taking on the kind of additional financial obligation the Rangers absorbed with Fielder (a net addition of about $76 million over seven years), it probably should have been treated as a free agent signing with all the protocols involved in a free agent signing.
But theory and real-life are two different things. In real time, neither team did a physical. And of the two players involved, the one with the much, much longer injury history was Kinsler. He'd had sports hernia surgery, a dislocated thumb, a stress fracture in his foot, a high ankle sprain that bothered him, in his own words, for more than a year and numerous soft-tissue injuries. From 2008 through 20013, Kinsler had more DL stays (5) than Fielder had missed games (4). From the Tigers standpoint, though, the club was actually shedding money, so a little more risk could probably be absorbed.
Back to the Rangers: According to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, the Rangers typical pre-signing physical does not include X-rays or an MRI of the neck area, so, if the herniation existed at that point, it's unlikely it would have been detected.
"A cervical MRI at least for us has not been part of our kind of standard physical," Daniels said. "And we are talking about a guy that has no history, no documentation, no treatment and no issues that anybody was aware of when we acquired him. Had we done a physical, we wouldn't have done a cervical MRI. I don't know, there may be other clubs that do that as standard practice but we're going to look into that."
Q: But the Rangers invested $138 million in this guy.
A: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Let's do a little simple math. Fielder's contract is for $24 million per year for the next seven years, which equals $168 million and the Rangers did receive $30 million in cash, which does come out to $138 million, but is nobody counting the $62 million commitment they shed in dealing Kinsler?
According to my math and in my reporting, it has and always will be, a net addition of $76 million.
And one other thing to keep in mind: The Rangers also assumed the insurance policy on Fielder's contract, so they will get some money back this year and will have some protection going forward. It also probably helped mitigate the perceived need for a physical because the Rangers were getting a guy with no injury history and significant insurance protection.
How significant? Policies vary from team to team and company to company, but sources have indicated to me the Rangers would receive 50 percent of his remaining salary back once an exclusionary period ends. Here is where it gets tricky. Some policies are written so that a team may start collecting after a period of 60 or 90 days missed, but they then collect for the entire time missed. In other policies, the exclusionary period acts like a deductible. Once a player has missed the number of required days, from that point to the end of the season clubs collect money. In the case of Fielder, it could mean the Rangers recoup anywhere from $2-8 million.
Q: The Tigers obviously traded the Rangers damaged goods. Can't something be done?
A: This assumes a lot all based on Jon Daniels comments last week that when he finally mentioned the issue to the Rangers, Fielder also said he'd had some neck stiffness in 2013.
There may be a connection between that stiffness and the herniation, but the symptoms were not enough to alarm Fielder to even seek treatment last year. And it's entirely possible the neck stiffness and the herniation were not related. At least there was nothing to suggest the situation was of the magnitude it has become.
Daniels mentioned 2013 as a way of possibly explaining the longer-range decline in power that Fielder has experienced, not to intimate that there was a breach of protocol. When I asked Daniels if there was any recourse to follow up on, he said simply: "It's not even a consideration."
If there is fault here, it lies solely with Fielder for not saying anything last season. According to Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, the first time he mentioned the condition was affecting him was in early May when the Rangers went to Anaheim. Only then did Fielder go to the Rangers.
If that's the case, it speaks loudly about the modern mindset of players: They often won't say anything to the team until they talk to their own advocate first.
And I think there is, to some degree, a fault with the notion that being an "ironman" is the most noble adjective that can be ascribed to a player. It is a noble ideal. In reality, though, it leads to players trying to play through conditions to keep streaks alive and to simply prove they never missed a game. And it often puts the team in jeopardy more than it helps. Imagine if there was a more slight compressing of the nerve last year and Fielder had gotten an injection and it had provided relief. The Tigers might possible have beaten Boston in the ALCS and won a World Series, to boot.
Taking PEDs and, more particularly, amphetamines out of the game means players are going to fatigue more often and more quickly and, thus, be more susceptible to injuries. This is not to suggest that Fielder ever once touched any of those, but a generalization on the game. We're in a new era in baseball where there are no quick pick-me-ups. Because of it, expectations and usage must be changed for all players.
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