This year, the Tigers payroll was $106 million, their lowest in four years. That was despite signing Victor Martinez for $80 million last Thanksgiving. This year I knew they had another big chunk of essentially wasted money coming off the books:
- Fragile Magglio Ordonez and his $10 million paycheck was coming off the books.
- Oft-injured Carlos Guillen’s four-year deal runs out, giving them another $13 million
- Finally, pitcher Brad Penny’s one-year, $3 million contract will also be over.
That’s $26 million that the Tigers could spend, even if they don’t want to raise payroll to the stratospheric levels of a couple years ago. That’s enough to do some major shopping. Fortunately, more of it is spoken for than I thought.
- It looks like they’ll offer arbitration to Delmon Young, tying up $7-8 million.
- Justin Verlander is due a $7 million raise by his current contract.
- Several others are due a million dollar raise here or there.
That still probably leaves enough money to make on significant purchase – probably a starting pitcher – or several smaller purchases to fill gaps. But it doesn’t mean a spending spree which could damn near bury the rest of the division. Unless…
Unless owner Mike Ilitch really likes the taste of the postseason he got this year, in which case all bets are off. Unlike our favorite team’s local management, Ilitch has run his team as more of a passion than a business, doubling down at odd times over the last decade. If the Tigers decide to return to the $130+ million payroll level that they had in 2008 or 2010, they’ll have another $25 million of walk-around money. If that’s the case, the rest of the AL Central will have some significant hurdles to clear next year.