The Detroit Tigers Can’t Afford Jose Reyes


The turning of June to July means there is only one month prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. There has already been a lot of fan talk about the possibility of the Tigers going after Jose Reyes of the New York Mets. Hang on boys and girls, this is just the start of the silly season. Silly I say? Yes, here is why.

Reyes is just the first name that will fly around as rampant speculation heats up. Fans will undoubtedly justify the potential addition by pointing to the expiring contracts of Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez. While that does represent $23 million coming off the books, the Tigers’ financial situation is much more broad than that. Money coming “on” the books needs to be accounted for too. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Tigers pick up the options on Rick Porcello and Jose Valverde. Their commitments, not including Jacob Turner‘s major league contract, look like this for 2012:

Add it all up and it is a shade under $83 million. Jose Reyes is set to be a free agent following the 2011 season and I would guess that setting his annual salary in the neighborhood of $17 million won’t prove to be unrealistically high. That puts the Tigers up to the $100 million dollar mark with little more than a (very good) pick-up team to show for it.

What still needs to be accomplished? Just this:

  • Contracts for Max Scherzer and Phil Coke, both of whom are arbitration eligible
  • A fifth starter
  • A handful of relievers
  • A handful of position players

Some of the items in the above shopping list will be completed through contract tenders to non-arbitration eligible players like Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. The Tigers will have to choose between handing the fifth starter spot over to a young (and cheap) player or spending $3-5 million on a veteran. Do the Tigers string Max Scherzer along on a series of one year deals through his arbitration years or do to they commit the money now and buy out a year or two of free agency? There are plenty of internal questions that need to be answered and it is reasonable to expect the Tigers will reach their 2011 spending levels simply by answering those.

Another school of thought says that the Tigers could trade for Reyes and not resign him, instead allowing him to leave via free agency giving the Tigers a draft pick in the first and the compensatory round following the conclusion of the first round. The problem is that there is no guarantee the Tigers would recuperate the prospects they gave up to acquire Reyes and they would be at the very beginning of their progression even if they did. The Tigers need to create a bridge between the Magglio-era and this era that will be defined by Cabrera and Verlander; creating a donut hole in their already mediocre farm system isn’t a way to do that successfully.