What If Mike Ilitch Sold the Detroit Tigers?


Oct 27, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers mascot Paws waves a team flag during game three of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There were some rumors that circulated late last week after Bob McCown, a personality on Sportsnet’s Prime Time Sports, said that he heard that Mike Ilitch and the Ilitch family was debating selling the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, and the Little Caesar’s Pizza Franchise. These rumors have since been fiercely denied by all in the Red Wings organization using very colorful language to say McCown was making everything up.

Although these rumors may not have much clout, it is still interesting to think, where would the Tigers be without Mike Ilitch as their owner?

It has not been much of a secret that Ilitch is in definite win-now mode and will spend as much money as he believes he needs for the Tigers to win a World Series. Ilitch has allowed Dave Dombrowski to pursue big name free agents and resign big name players like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander in his tenure with the Tigers. Since Ilitch is willing to pour a large sum of money into the Tigers and Dombrowski complies, the Tigers had the 5th highest payroll entering the 2014 season at over $162 million.

Some would argue that pouring large sums of money into a team is not the way to build a World Series winner, but there needs to be a balance in intelligently spending money while developing your own players that you can cheaply keep. The San Francisco Giants are 7th in payroll at just over $154 million and the Kansas City Royals sit at 19th in payroll at just over $92 million.

Without Mike Ilitch, the Tigers could have one of three types of owners: a Mike Ilitch type, a balanced owner who will occasionally spend money, and the former Billy Beane Moneyball ownership plan.

Unless the Tigers had an owner like the Oakland A’s or the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tigers would have most likely resigned Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera, but maybe not both.

I whole heartedly believe that the Prince Fielder signing came from the ownership office so the Tigers would currently be without Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers had a “Mike Ilitch” type owner, I do not believe the Tigers roster would be much different than it is currently constructed outside of Kinsler, and either Cabrera or Verlander.

Without Ilitch, the Tigers roster would probably be differently constructed because not all owners would allow Dave Dombrowski an open checkbook. The Tigers would probably be constructed with more players like Austin Jackson, J.D. Martinez, Omar Infante, and Alex Avila because they are all affordable options that can be extended under team control. We would also see the Tigers holding onto more of their prospects and trying to develop them into serviceable big league talents. This would most obviously affect the Tigers bullpen. Instead of Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain in the back end of the bullpen the Tigers could have some home grown talent besides Bruce Rondon and Al Alburquerque.

The Tigers have taken giant steps since Ilitch purchased the Tigers in 1992. They went from bottom feeders in the AL Central to winning 4 straight AL Central Championships, making 2 World Series since 2006, and has become a perennial World Series favorite. The Tigers have been lucky to have Ilitch as an owner and it looks like he will be holding onto the team for the near future.