Prince Fielder is not going to take another turn at bat for the 2016 Rangers. The hulking designated hitter has a herniated disc in his neck, and doctors have recommended that he get surgery to fix it, the team announced Monday afternoon. It's the second time in his three years with the Rangers that Fielder will miss at least a third of the season after undergoing neck surgery.
Since being acquired from the Tigers in 2013 for one of the best players in Rangers history, second baseman Ian Kinsler, Fielder has been an unmitigated disaster for the club. In 2014 he played in only 42 games and hit only three home runs before spending the rest of the year on the disabled list. In 2015, Fielder's career experienced what now has to be called a dead cat bounce. He produced at a serviceable level through and beyond the first half of the season, but faded in September and the playoffs, stumbling to his worst full-season performance since 2008. As good as Fielder was with the Brewers from 2006-2011, first basemen with his body type simply don't age well, but even so Fielder's slide has been quicker than most.
This year, playing with the herniated disc that he concealed from the Rangers, Fielder hasn't produced at all, racking up -1.8 wins above a replacement. (In plain English, that means Fielder has cost the Rangers two wins they would've had had the team just-called-up a replacement from Triple A.) Rangers manager Jeff Banister has left Fielder in the lineup, often at the expense of burgeoning talents like Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, out of deference to his role in the team's clubhouse and status as a respected veteran.
Bannister's refusal to sit Fielder means that the former slugger's missing the rest of the season is perhaps the best non-trade thing that could've happened to a team readying itself for a pennant race with the Houston Astros. It wouldn't be so bad for the Rangers, at least on the field, if Fielder never suited up for the team again.
Fielder's nine-year, $214 million contract is barely half-completed. It is an albatross around the Rangers neck and has been an impediment to the team making any effort to trade Fielder. As long as he remains on the disabled list, however, an insurance policy will pick up at least part of his salary.
As for Kinsler, he's thrived in Detroit, putting up his usual stellar numbers in each of his three years with the Tigers. He's got 20 home runs so far in 2016, just 14 less than Fielder, the guy whose only job is to hit for power, has in his entire Rangers career.
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