ARLINGTON, Texas (BVM) — It has been nearly four years since Prince Fielder gave a tearful goodbye to Major League Baseball.
On Aug. 10, 2016, the Texas Rangers’ designated hitter announced he was no longer medically cleared to play the game he grew up with after undergoing a second, season-ending neck surgery. Two spinal fusions had forced Fielder to hang up his cleats early.
Fielder, 36, played his final MLB game on July 18, 2016. With four years and $96 million left on his guaranteed contract, the stout slugger couldn’t formally retire after the 2016 season or else he would forfeit the near nine-figures he was owed.
That brings us to this up-in-the-air 2020 MLB season. Despite being physically unable to play, Prince Fielder still finds himself on the payrolls of two ball clubs – the Rangers and the Detroit Tigers.
Following an illustrious seven seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers – that included three top five finishes in the National League MVP voting, a 50-home run season, three All-Star Game appearances and two NL Silver Slugger awards – the robust first baseman earned what was then the fourth-largest contract in MLB history.
On the free agent market going into the 2012 season, the Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million deal. At that time, Prince had penned the richest contract in franchise history. Two seasons later though, he was traded to the Rangers. Part of that transaction left Detroit to pay a portion of Fielder’s remaining salary.
It was a massive deal for a massive man. His 5-foot-11, 275-pound presence in the batter’s box caused a plethora of problems for opposing pitchers. Fielder drew 847 walks in 6,853 plate appearances – three times hitting the century mark for bases on balls in a single season.
He smashed 319 home runs in his 12-year career, which just so happened to be the same amount as his father, Cecil Fielder. Known for the long ball, Prince was the first and only player to win the Home Run Derby as a member of both the American League and National League (Ken Griffey Jr. and Yoenis Céspedes are the only others to have won the competition twice).
This season will be the last that Prince Fielder makes millions from his playing days – $24 million to be exact. According to team payrolls, the Rangers are on the hook for just $9 million (another $9 million is covered by insurance that was originally taken out by Detroit and sent over in the Nov. 20, 2013 trade) and the Tigers will provide the remaining $6 million.
In June, the MLBPA agreed to a 60-game season with full prorated contracts (which equates to 37% of full season salaries) that is set to begin at the end of this month. Fielder and other players not on 40-man rosters have their guaranteed contracts protected by the league’s collective-bargaining agreement. Therefore Fielder will actually be the highest-paid player in baseball this season. Mike Trout was scheduled to make $37.7 million this year, but due to the prorated contracts the three-time AL MVP will make about $14 million instead.
Neck injuries cost Prince Fielder nearly 200 regular season games in his three years in the Lone Star State. There’s no telling how productive he could’ve been if he had been able to stay healthy or how many more seasons he’d still have left to play as a DH. Who knows, maybe he would’ve made it into Cooperstown. What can be said is that Prince was one of the most exciting power hitters the game has seen and he didn’t let his size limit what he could do on the diamond.