The Detroit Tigers have been one of the biggest spending teams in baseball over the past three years. In 2013, their payroll figures to get even bigger.
In November of 2009, Detroit traded away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, they watched as second baseman Placido Polanco and closer Fernando Rodney left as free agents. The club at that time, according to president and GM Dave Dombrowski, needed to make some adjustments to the payroll structure to allow them to compete going forward. Not only did those moves free up considerable finances, but it allowed the Tigers to get younger by adding Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, and Phil Coke – all cost controlled players.
Of course, those players are now into their arbitration years, but they aren’t the only expenses going up for the Tigers. Since Dombrowski made those adjustments, he’s spent a healthy dose of owner Mike Ilitch’s money. The Tigers are operating like a club that prioritizes winning over all else, including profitability. Need someone to protect your superstar in the lineup? Go get a $13 million per year DH. That DH gets hurt working out in December? Here’s $214 million for a new free agent first baseman. Make it to the World Series only to get swept? Spend another $26 million on a new right fielder.
This, of course, is great news for Sanchez, who needs a bit of a bidding war if he’s going to get the kind of money he’s been seeking; reportedly six to seven years and $90-100 million. Most clubs will look at those figures and laugh, but Sanchez isn’t marketing himself to those clubs. Instead, he’s drawing interest from the Dodgers, Tigers, and Red Sox – three of the biggest budgets in the game.
The Tigers, with the addition of Hunter and expected raises to arbitration-eligible players, will already boast a payroll above $140 million for next year, which will be the highest in team history. If the Tigers are able to sign Sanchez, that’s another $15 million on top. Sure, there are ways to trim some of the fat. Trading a starter like Rick Porcello would make sense if they re-sign Sanchez, and that would free up roughly $6 million. There have been rumors the Tigers would look to move shortstop Jhonny Peralta, also making $6 million, but that only happens if they can upgrade the position. Upgrades usually mean bigger investment dollars as well.
There are a couple of factors at work in Detroit. The first is the new national television contracts, which will basically double the TV revenue for every team. Those new contracts alone will pay 90% of the tab for Hunter and Sanchez. The second, and biggest, factor for the Tigers is Ilitch’s desire for a World Championship at any cost.
He’s in his 80s. The clock is ticking. The time for the Tigers to win is now. So, the man who is worth billions will spend another dozen or so million.
It’s a stark and refreshing contrast to the situation in Miami, where Jeffrey Loria has placed profitability ahead of winning at every opportunity.