Estimating Salaries for the Detroit Tigers’ Arbitration Eligible Players


Sep 20, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks (12) hits a two RBI single in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have nine players who are under team control for the 2014 season as arbitration eligible players. Three starting pitchers in Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello, two sure-fire everyday players in Austin Jackson and Alex Avila, two fringe-to-bench types in Andy Dirks and Don Kelly, and two bullpen arms in Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque.

MLB Trade Rumors has developed a systematic process for estimating arbitration salaries, and last night they released their estimates for the Detroit Tigers’ lot.

"Max Scherzer (5.079): $13.6MMRick Porcello (4.170): $7.7MMDoug Fister (4.058): $6.9MMAustin Jackson (4.000): $5.3MMAlex Avila (4.061): $3.7MMPhil Coke (5.028): $2.1MMAndy Dirks (2.139, Super Two): $1.7MMDon Kelly (4.138): $900KAl Alburquerque (2.147, Super Two): $700K"

The nine players combine to earn an expected $39.6 million for next season ($37.5 million if we don’t include Phil Coke). The quick estimates I had been working with were more in the $32 million range – I was low on all three starting pitchers – so updating my payroll estimates puts the team’s opening day payroll at $155 million.

That $155 million, which would represent a $5 million increase over last season, doesn’t include outgoing free agents Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, and Jhonny Peralta, and it doesn’t include any possible free agent signings. So, if the Tigers are intent on adding back in a veteran closer and everday second baseman, they could be looking at a payroll pushing $170 million. That figure would have been the third-highest opening day payroll in MLB in 2013, trailing only the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

On to some of the specific arbitration numbers: Coke is an obviuos non-tender at $2.1 million. The Tigers could try to negotiate a lower rate with him, but even $1 million would seem high after how he performed last year. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, to see the Tigers try to bring him back on that kind of deal.

$1.7 million seems awfully high for Andy Dirks, who would be in his first year of eligibility as a Super Two player. He doesn’t have the typical numbers that lead to high arbitration salaries – he gets more of his value from defense than he does offense – so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall closer to $1 million, but, even at the $1.7M price, he’s still a good value. Dirks is far from perfect, but he could (and has) put up 1-2 WAR as a platoon outfielder or fourth outfielder type.

Don Kelly would is a fringe non-tender candidate at $900 thousand (the same amount he made in 2013). His value is all tied to the defensive flexibility he provides the team (center field and third base capabilities) and, with just his one roster spot, the Tigers have all of their emergency defensive scenarios accounted for. I think for now the Tigers will plan on having him around, though he’ll become much more redundant if Nick Castellanos wins the most-days left field job and Andy Dirks moves to the bench.

The other six guys are pretty easy signs at their projected figures. The deadline to tender these players with arbitration offers is December 2.