"He has presence," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Fielder. "He has been a very productive player, and he has been a winning player. He plays every day, he plays hard and he plays to win. I believe he'll fit right in with the character of our clubhouse. I believe he will be a leader and do the job in the middle of our lineup. We're happy to have him here. I've always liked him."
Fielder's home runs, slugging percentage and .819 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2013 were the lowest single-season figures of his eight full seasons in the Major Leagues. He also hit just .225 (9-for-40) in 11 playoff games without hitting a home run or driving in a run as the Tigers lost to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series last month. But the Rangers do not consider that to be the start of a downward trend.
"We looked at it quite a bit," general manager Jon Daniels said. "If he was coming off the best year of his career, then he would not be available. I think that's kind of the whole idea of this deal. If anyone feels like that's a sign of things to come, that he's slipping, you may not like the deal. We don't feel that way. Based on what we got from our scouts, and some of the analysis we did, we think there's a lot more to come. We're excited what we're going to get from this guy in the future."
The move opens up a spot for Jurickson Profar, who is now the leading candidate to be the Rangers' starting second baseman, alongside Elvis Andrus at shortstop. But Daniels said the spot won't be just handed to Profar. The Rangers have two highly regarded middle-infield prospects in Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor, both of whom finished last season at Double-A Frisco.
Profar played in 85 games for the Rangers this past season and hit .234 with 30 runs scored, 11 doubles, six home runs and 26 RBIs in 324 plate appearances. He played 32 games at second base, 18 at shortstop, 10 at third base and four in left field. Now, Profar has a chance to be locked into one spot.
"He's a guy we like," Daniels said. "We certainly like his potential and what he brings to the table. He's a guy we'd like to see claim the job, but he's got to earn it. We may bring in some competition to push him, and there are some guys behind him that may push him. We certainly think he's capable, but he has to earn the job."
Fielder will be the Rangers' starting first baseman, taking a spot that Mitch Moreland has held for the past three seasons. Moreland could serve as a backup first baseman while getting time at designated hitter and the outfield. But the Rangers are still looking for more offense, most likely in left field, although they have shown interest in free-agent slugger Brian McCann as a backup catcher and designated hitter. Moreland played in 147 games for the Rangers this past season and hit .232 with 23 home runs, 60 RBIs and a .437 slugging percentage.
"Some of it is yet to be determined based on the rest of the winter," Daniels said. "Mitch is certainly in our plans. An offensive addition at some position is of some value. We went into the offseason looking for two bats, and that's still the plan."
The Rangers also have to decide what to do about the leadoff spot after trading away a three-time All-Star who was a huge part of the club's rise to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and '11. Kinsler hit .277 with 85 runs scored, 31 doubles, 13 home runs, 72 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, a .344 OBP and a .413 slugging percentage this past season. He was also the senior member of the Rangers.
"This is obviously a very exciting trade for us, adding Prince Fielder to our organization, but also a tough trade," Daniels said. "Ian Kinsler has been in our organization since we drafted him in 2003. He was a catalyst for us on our World Series team, a heart-and-soul guy. Detroit is getting a tremendous player and person."
Daniels said the trade gives the Rangers some direction regarding how their offseason will progress, especially since the deal clears up what will happen in the middle of the infield.
"We came into the offseason with depth in the middle of the diamond and a need at the corners," Daniels said. "We've balanced that out. We're not done, but we've chosen our path both financially and on the field.
"We'd still like to add offense. That's still our top objective, but we're looking to upgrade the team any way we can. We're not ignoring the pitching staff, but this gives us a run producer in the middle of the lineup. We never felt pressure to deal one of our middle infielders, but other teams felt we had to. This clears it up."
The Rangers tried to sign Fielder as a free agent two years ago, but instead he signed a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Tigers. The Rangers did not come close to matching that offer.
Fielder still has seven years and $168 million remaining on the contract, which runs through 2020, but the Rangers will receive $30 million from the Tigers as part of the trade. The money won't be paid out until the final five years of the contract, beginning in '16. Fielder also had a no-trade clause that included Texas, but he still approved the trade. Detroit was not included by Kinsler in his partial no-trade clause.
The two sides floated the idea at last week's General Managers Meetings, but Daniels said the trade talks really began with a call from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday, and the deal came together by Wednesday evening.
"You could tell both sides were interested and motivated," Daniels said. "We got the money where both sides could live with it, and we made the deal."
"It happened really fast, there's no question," Dombrowski said. "Really, since the General Managers Meetings last week, we just started to talk to clubs this week. We talked to a lot of different clubs at that point, really, about different processes, and then followed up.
"We really just kind of kicked this one around a little bit and then mentioned it with Jon Daniels, and he said, 'Well, that's interesting. Let me get back to you.'"