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What Detroit Tigers’ Signing Of Prince Fielder Means To The Cleveland Indians

Detroit made a splash with its marquee signing, but for Tribe fans, so what?

The Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder. As a baseball move, this is a big deal. But aside from that, and the fact that Central Division teams now have to pitch to him a lot more, my question is: why are Cleveland fans so mad?

The Indians are a small market team. The Tigers, with regards to spending, are not. There's your difference. There's your story. There's your bottom line.

The Cleveland Indians were never in the running for Prince Fielder. They were never going to be able to come close to offering nine years to anyone, much less at $214 million.

Had Detroit signed Henry Rowengartner to a 15-year deal or given Jack Parkman $300 million, it wouldn't change things. If the Indians are going to win, they're going to win doing things their way: low-risk veteran deals, building through the farm system and trades. The payroll is never going to reach $200 million. Hell, ownership is probably mad enough that it is shelling out more money for largely the same roster as last season plus Derek Lowe.

Minor-league deals to guys like Fred Lewis, Jose Lopez, Jeremy Accardo, Gregorio Petit and Ryan Spilborghs are the big news for the Cleveland Indians. It might be sad, but it's the reality.

The good news is that the team can build on a foundation that has shown a lot of promise. Yes, the team is still in need of a bat. Watching a guy who had a .981 OPS last year playing just a couple hours down the road while the Tribe offers up another dose of Matt LaPorta and his 0.2 WAR -- or whatever else the Indians are planning on giving Clevelanders -- is going to make people rightfully mad.

But, between a gelling infield, some talented arms between the big league club and the minors and what should be a healthy and improved outfield, the value outweighs the cost right now. That's a good thing.

Travis Hafner's contract will be off the books after this year (there is a $13 million team option for 2013 with a $2.75 million buyout that I can almost guarantee will not be picked up). The Indians will only be on the hook for $5 million of Derek Lowe's salary and $1.5 million of Kevin Slowey's deal. Fausto Carmona/Roberto Heredia has team options for 2013 and 2014, and if he shows even a little bit of productivity this year, could be a valuable trade asset. Shin-Soo Choo has one more year of arbitration.

If the Indians can be competitive this year and stay afloat, they will have a lot of flexibility to make moves after the 2012 season. Baseball is a waiting game. Much like good poker, the big moves are the ones that make the most noise, but if you are constantly playing, you're going to lose. Maintaining your chip count and cashing in on big hands (whether through low risk-moderate rewards, making smart deals, or hitting on prospects) is how you win.

The Indians aren't about to go stack for stack against Detroit, New York or Boston, but it doesn't mean they won't push it all in when they're finally dealt the right hand.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.