The Tigers already made one big splash in free agency this offseason when the signed Torii Hunter – probably the one type of move they needed most and perhaps the only one they needed at all – but they’re still rumored to be searching for a couple more pieces.
They’ve been in the mix to re-sign starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez all along, they’re perhaps still looking for a left field platoon partner for Andy Dirks, and they’re kind of, sort of looking for shortstop upgrades (even in some odd places). But the question remains: exactly how much money do they have left to spend or, rather, how much money is Mr. Ilitch willing to spend?
With Hunter now in the mix, Detroit has roughly $111 million committed to ten guys with guaranteed contracts for next season. Add in the seven arbitration eligible players who could make a combined $25.5 million (according to MLB Trade Rumors) and the Tigers are staring at an opening day payroll of rougly $137 million. More, actually, because they’d need at least eight more guys to fill out the roster. So even if the Tigers stand pat (and fill the roster with league-minimum pre-arbitration players) they would open up the 2013 season with approximately $140 million on the ledger – the highest payroll number ever for the Detroit Tigers.
A signing of someone like Stephen Drew at shortstop would be followed by a Jhonny Peralta trade, so the marginal hit to the bottom line would be minimal, and a right-handed hitting left fielder would “only” fetch a couple of million, but then there’s the question of Anibal Sanchez. He’s likely the only “big-ticket” free agent the Tigers could still land, but they’re probably not in position to win an all-out bidding war for his services.
We all know that Mike Ilitch is itching for a World Series ring – and it sounds like he’s more than willing to keep the pocketbook open to keep a guy like Sanchez – but we’re likely reaching the payroll tipping point. The Tigers aren’t known as penny pinchers when they’re in talks with a guy they want, we saw that when they quickly hammered out a deal with Torii Hunter before he could visit other clubs, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to just throw all sorts of money around. Sanchez threw out a request for six years and $90 million more than two weeks ago, but the Tigers haven’t taken the bait. They could be waiting for Zack Greinke to sign and set the market rate before simply overpaying, but it’s possible that they’ve already informed Sanchez of their top dollar number and are sitting back and waiting to see if he’ll settle for it.
Any sort of Sanchez deal would tip the scales beyond the $150 million mark for next season – well more than they’ve ever paid for players in the past – and it’s very possible they would have to unload money to make it work. Sanchez would make Rick Porcello expendable, so the Tigers could save roughly $4 million there, but it’s possible that they could also deal away Peralta even if it meant that Danny Worth would be the everyday guy at shortstop. Chris argued the other day that Danny Worth would be a poor option as an everyday player – and I’m inclined to agree with him – but if the question is Porcello and Peralta or Sanchez and Worth, I’m probably picking the latter.
It’s easy to take Mr. I and his money for granted – he always seems to come up with more dough when it’s needed – but even he has his limits, and it’s very possible the Tigers are up against it. Of course, nothing he decides would surprise me, and it’s very possible he approves the Sanchez signing with no strings attached.