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2013 Payroll Concerns (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mike Illitch”)


With the recent addition of Torii Hunter, the Tigers committed $26 million dollars to the payroll for the next two seasons. That’s in addition to the $100.6 million dollars already dedicated to nine players for 2013 (Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, and Ramon Santiago). They also have to divvy up in arbitration costs to six players (Austin Jackson, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke, Rick Porcello, and Alex Avila. I’m not counting Ryan Raburn or Brennan Boesch because, honestly, I have no idea what they’re going to do with those two). That could be upwards of another $30+ million dollars. How much more can the Tigers spend?

Whatever Mike Illitch feels like, really.

Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (left), Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch (center), and wife Marian Illitch during NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

When Illitch bought the club in 1992 from Tom Monaghan he spent $82 million dollars. Twenty years later, Forbes has the Detroit Tigers worth around $478 million dollars as of March 2012. And what the recent sales of the Dodgers and Padres have taught us is that the Tigers could be worth almost twice as much as their Forbes price due to television contracts. Illitch also has investments in casinos, Little Caesars, the Red Wings (stupid Gary Bettman…), and probably hundreds of other smaller businesses. This is not even taking into account the additional revenue made from a lengthy and deep playoff run, merchandise, etc.  Mike Illitch as proven in his time as an owner that one of his life’s great ambitions is to win a World Series, and now that he’s gotten a second taste of it some are speculating that millions of dollars are currently burning a hole in his pocket.

That is all to say that Illitch can sign off on just about anything Dave Dombrowski thinks is best right now. The Tigers are the Las Vegas favorite to win the World Series in 2013 at 6-1, which only reinforces that notion. They just signed Torii Hunter, so instead of thinking “Gosh, this might handicap what the Tigers could spend the rest of the offseason,” one could think “Sweet! I can’t wait to see what the next upgrade will be!” Does this mean the Tigers will resign Anibal Sanchez? Hey, who knows? For what he was able to accomplish during his brief Tigers tenure maybe he is worth the investment.

This also neglects to take trades into account. Dombrowski can wheel and deal with the best of them, and maybe he could add or subtract salaries with a deal – any deal that would increase the depth and strength of a team that is potentially poised to hoist a championship trophy in the coming year. Is Justin Upton available? Trevor Bauer? Any team want to part with an extra shortstop? A fifth starter? The possibilities are endless.

Mike Illitch is basically playing a video game with this team. He’s making sure this team can get the best possible upgrades at whatever spots need it, and he desperately wants to win. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of this team in the Hot Stove season, especially with the main Winter Meetings about a month away now.

And heck, none of this is really our money anyway.