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Sizing Up The Competition: Lurking Tigers

  • Blog Post by: John Bonnes
  • November 10, 2010 - 10:37 PM

If you’re of the mind that a Major League Baseball owner should treat his team like a toy and overfund it for a championship, you might want to root for the Detroit Tigers. Or at lease you might have wanted to the last three years.

 
For the last three years, owner Tigers owner Mike Illitch has averged close to $130 million in payroll, which has put him nearly on par with the New York Mets. The Tigers run to the World Series in 2006 likely drove those three years. But they also ran completely against the rest of major league baseball and coincided with the current economic crisis. And in case you missed it, his team is in Detroit.
 
That will likely change this year, but the big question is “How much?” The Tigers had an enormous amount of money come off their books this year, which could give them plenty of room to grow, depending on how much Ilitch wants to subsidize them. My back-of-the-napkin figuring shows that if the season began today, payroll would only run about $80M:
 
2011
Player
 $M
 Notes
C
A Avila
 $   0.50
serf
1B
M Cabrera
 $ 20.00
contract
2B
W Rhymes
 $   0.50
serf
3B
B Inge
 $   5.50
contract
SS
J Peralta
 $   5.25
contract
LF
R Raburn
 $   1.50
contract
CF
A Jackson
 $   0.50
serf
RF
C Guillen
 $ 13.00
contract
DH
B Boesch
 $   0.50
 
 
Player
 $M
 Notes
4th OF
D Kelly
 $   0.50
 
C IF
 
 $   0.50
 
M IF
Santiago
 $   1.25
contract
C
???
 $   0.50
 
Other
 
 $   0.50
 
 
Player
 $M
 Notes
SP
Verlander
 $ 12.75
 
SP
Porcello
 $   1.50
 
SP
Scherzer
 $   1.00
estimate
SP
Galarraga
 $   2.50
arbitration
SP
Coke
 $   0.50
serf
 
Player
 $M
 Notes
Closer
Valverde
 $   7.00
 
MR
J Zumaya
 $   1.50
arbitration
MR
R Perry
 $   0.50
 
MR
E Bonine
 $   0.50
 
MR
B Thomas
 $   0.50
 
MR
D Schlereth
 $   0.50
 
MR
 
 $   0.50
 
 
 
 
 
Total
 
 $ 79.75
 
 
 
That would give the Tigers an astounding $50 million to spend this offseason – if they wanted to maintain that $130M payroll. Fortunately for Twins fans, it sounds like Detroit’s goals are a little more reasonable. This week Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski stated his intentions for the offseason:
 
“So we talked about being in a position where we needed somebody in the middle of the order that can drive in runs. It’s apparent that that person will either play outfield or DH the way we shape up. So that’s something that we’ll be looking to do.
 
“We’ve also talked about trying to help our bullpen, and that’s something that we’ll be focused on doing. Those are our two biggest goals at this time. We do need a catcher to supplement Alex Avila, so those are really the three biggest needs that we have at this particular time, but we’ll keep an open mind about a lot of different things as we go through it.”
 
The big bat is needed to replace Magglio Ordonez, who is a free agent this year. His replacement has been rumored to be any number of big hitters, including Magglio Ordonez. The key will be finding a big time producer who can stay healthy, as Ordonez only played in 84 games last year. That could improve their already decent offense, which scored 751 runs and ranked 11th in the majors (but 8th in the American League).
 
Where the Tigers struggled was defensively, ranking 22nd in the majors in runs given up. It wasn’t the fielders fault, as their defense they saved 21 runs more than average, according to UZR. The culprit looks like it was the starting pitching (4.46 ERA) moreso than the relief pitching (3.96 ERA). That seems a bit fluky. The rotation was led by ace Justin Verlander, and youngsters Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer were supposed to give them a solid foundation. That didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t next year.
 
The Tigers finished 13 games behind the Twins this year, and weren’t really a factor by the time the calendar turned to August. It’s hard to take a team like that too seriously. But they won 81 games. Their biggest weakness – their starting pitching – should only get better. And they look like they could have some money to spend in the offseason.
 
The Tigers look like a team worth watching. And if things break their way, or their owner subsidizes another huge payroll, an attractive team to root for.
 

 
If you're looking for more, Seth had his podcast Tuesday night. And Parker dives into the revelation that the Twins made a bid for a Japanese starting pitcher.

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