In the illustrious words of famous wordsmith Ron Burgandy, “Well, that escalated quickly”. Prince Fielder will reportedly miss the rest of the season after deciding to undergo cervical fusion surgery. Fielder will seek a second opinion, but all signs point to that being a formality. He will look to be ready to go for the 2015 season. (For a timeline of the events that led us to this point, I wrote about Fielder in last week’s Injury Report)
The decision has been made to fuse the joints where the herniated disc resides as opposed to going with a microdiscectomy, which would result in the herniated disc material just being removed. While this is a less intensive surgery than the fusion, the likelihood of that in itself solving the issue is less of a guarantee than it is with the cervical fusion. Either way, he would have likely missed the rest of the season, although he could have held out hope of a 2014 return had he decided to have the microdiscectomy.
So what does this mean for Fielder long term? You can definitely expect the involved arm to make significant improvements over the course of his rehabilitation. There’s no guarantee that he will regain full strength of the arm, but the fact that they’re acting pretty quickly increases the chances of a full recovery. The fact that it’s his non-throwing hand is a definite plus, but anytime the nerve is impaired enough to cause weakness, there definitely has to be a concern moving forward. His power numbers could also be expected to take a hit if he doesn’t restore full (or near full) strength in that left arm.
At the end of the day, Fielder is making the right decision. With the amount of inflammation, pain, and weakness being caused by this pinched nerve, the best long term decision is to take care of it now and come back ready to go next year. Fielder is still owed $100+ million dollars over the next half decade, so preserving the life of the contract is more important at this point for the Rangers than this quickly sinking season. There are no guarantees for next season, but an offseason of reflection and swing analysis should lead to Fielder being a top 5 fantasy first baseman next season.