The Detroit Tigers announced today that they have signed their last remaining arbitration-eligible player in pitcher Armando Galarraga. the two sides agreed to a one-year, $2.3 million deal.
The ramifications of this pact aren’t as bad as one might think for the Tigers. On it’s face, it would appear that Detroit has committed better than $2 million to a guy that projects as the long reliever in 2011. That’s an awfully steep price tag for a mop-up man. As Jason Beck notes in his article, however, Galarraga’s contract is not fully guaranteed. The Tigers could still release him by mid-March and owe him only 30 days termination pay of 45 days if cut by the end of March. This provides the Tigers with some financial flexibility and would allow Galarraga the time to catch on with another club and compete for a rotation spot while camp is still going on.
Of course, the flip-side is that should injury or ineffectiveness result in an open rotation spot with the Tigers, they already have a capable fifth starter in house in Galarraga and would not have to make a move. Signing him ahead of a hearing keeps the two sides on friendly terms as hearings can get ugly pretty quickly.
Obviously Dave Dombrowski has done his best to avoid taking his case to an arbiter. The Tigers signed all three of their eligible players ahead of the deadline this year, keeping intact Dombrowski’s impressive steak. He has not gone to a hearing with a player since taking over GM duties in 2002.
Though Galarraga was just 4- last year, he was arguable the Tigers third-best starter for the season. That he’s in this position now is more a function of Detroit upgrading their rotation and less a function of his pitching ability. When he’s motivated to do so, Galarraga can be very effective at attacking hitters and putting them away with his above average slider. He gets himself in trouble when he begins to nibble and falls behind hitters.
It is the hope of the Tigers that as he enters camp next month, Galarraga will use his roster status as a challenge and will rise to the occasion. If he does, Detroit could have a pleasant problem of one too many starters. If not, Galarraga will be looking for a new home.