The Detroit Tigers are sure to add a handful of free agents this offseason. Second base and the bullpen are the most obvious concerns with left field also gaining attention.
I spent my last four articles telling you who the Tigers should target, why, and how much they should spend in so doing. And now, the unveiling of my (maybe not yours, or more importantly Dave Dombrowski’s) 2014 Detroit Tigers, complete with contract status and payroll info.
- Austin Jackson – CF – he has shown the willingness to improve but remains streaky. He gets one more crack at the leadoff spot for me. I still believe. (arbitration year #2: approx. $5M)
- Torii Hunter – RF – the ageless wonder is back for the last of his 2-year deal, and wants to hang a banner in a bad way, but needs to improve his declining defense ($14M)
- Miguel Cabrera – 3B – he’s about to snag his 2nd straight MVP and has won three straight batting crowns. Surgery went well so he should be ready for another dominant year ($22M)
- Prince Fielder – 1B – he’s not going anywhere folks, Brad Ausmus and the rest of the staff need to get him back to his wrecking ball ways of the past, he is still capable, and heck, even ARod had a good postseason once… ($24M)
- Victor Martinez – DH – his 4-year deal will expire at season’s end. This could very well be his last stand in Detroit, and the guy can still rake with the best of them ($12M)
- Nick Castellanos – LF – many experts are calling for a trade to upgrade left field. I prefer a 70/30 platoon of Castellanos and Andy Dirks. Stay cheap here and spend wisely in the pen. (approx. $500K)
- Alex Avila – C – the book hasn’t been closed on Avila. If he could just stay healthy, and if we could just stop having to type that about the guy…He gets at least one more year as Detroit’s starting backstop (arbitration year #2: approx. $4M)
- Omar Infante – 2B – yes, Omar needs to be brought back for fear of a terrible offensive middle infield without him. Detroit would kill for a 2-year deal but he’ll command three to four on the open market. If Detroit can get him for three and about $27M, that’d work. ($9M)
- Jose Iglesias – SS – he has the best glove this team has seen in a long, long time, but his bat still needs a lot of work. He’ll hit 9th for Ausmus. (approx. $500K)
Bryan Holaday – he will be the right-handed portion of the platoon with Avila. He’ll be serviceable, but not inspirational. ($500K)
Andy Dirks – Dirks still holds tremendous value and some upside. Splitting time with Castellanos in left and filling in elsewhere would be a solid role for him in 2014. (arbitration year #1: approx. $1M)
Don Kelly – it’s hard to imagine the versatile Kelly not being back. He can play across the entire outfield and in the infield corners. Expect to see him back in Motown. (arbitration year #3: approx $1.5M)
Hernan Perez – this is a tough one as he could use regular reps and that will only come at the minor league level. His defense and speed intrigue the Tigers. If the Tigers don’t bring Omar back it could mean Perez gets a look as the starter, but that seems unlikely. Expect a Mark Ellis type to get a call if Infante walks. ($500K)
Justin Verlander – after this season Verlander’s contract will spike to $28M/year. He showed very late in the year that he is still one of the game’s best. Hopefully he remembers how he pulled off his late season renaissance. ($20M)
Anibal Sanchez – Sanchez was extremely consistent and equally dominant throughout 2013. Nothing should change in the near future as he is knee-deep in his prime. ($15.8M)
Max Scherzer – much debate rages on over whether Max gets dealt this offseason. Don’t bet on it. The Tigers need him if they want to win the title (arbitration year #3: estimated $13M)
Doug Fister – Fister is arguably the best #4 starter in baseball. He has held up reasonably well in the playoffs to boot. That said, I think we’re seeing the best of Fister so if Dombrowski does go nuts on the trade market looking for a left fielder, the pitcher involved might be this guy, rather than Max or Rick Porcello. (arbitration year #2: estimated $6M)
Rick Porcello – Porcello showed more promise in 2013 than in any season since his rookie year. His increased strikeout rate was the main reason why. Detroit would be wise to stick with him rather than test fate by moving a young pitcher of his talent and makeup. (arbitration year #2: estimated $7M)
Joe Nathan – Nathan is the key to the bullpen remodel. Detroit has to have him #1 on their list of closer candidates. A 2-year deal would work perfectly. ($11M)
Joaquin Benoit – if the Tigers can’t lure Benoit back, then Cleveland’s Joe Smith or Oakland’s Grant Balfour would be great backup plans. ($6M)
J.P. Howell – Detroit is in desperate need of not only parting ways with Phil Coke, but of finding a true shutdown lefty specialist. Howell is the guy for the job. ($4M)
Bruce Rondon – Rondon is a special arm and projects to have a big 2014 if he can stay healthy. Let’s hope he doesn’t have a similar career path to another former Tigers flame-thrower, who shall remain nameless. ($500K)
Drew Smyly – Smyly has a future in the big leagues as a starting pitcher, but it won’t come in 2014. He is too valuable to the Tigers’ World Series case to remove from the pen. ($500K)
Al Alburquerque – Senor Slider, when pitching with less pressure on him, can be dominant. He’ll be a valuable piece for Ausmus and Jeff Jones. He too needs to stay healthy and consistent in the strike zone. (arbitration year #1: approx. $800K)
Luke Putkonen – Putkonen pitched well when called upon but never fully earned Jim Leyland’s trust. He has a clean slate with Ausmus and can be an effective long or short man in the pen. ($500K)
Add all of that up and you’re looking at the highest payroll in the history of the organization at $179.6M. It’s just so easy to spend other people’s money. But am I crazy?
Last year the Tigers hovered around $150M.
How can the Tigers justify an additional $30M in payroll you ask? Easy. The new tv deal finally kicks in during 2014 and will infuse an additional $25M or so into the team’s bank account. This might send baseball into a league-wide spending spree this offseason.
Some teams would be wise to wait a year and pick up the pieces at a discount next offseason, but due to so many players rising through their arbitration years as well as having up to eight players earning at least $11M next season, the Tigers almost have no choice.
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