The Detroit Tigers have five big-money contracts on their roster in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Anibal Sanchez. J.D. Martinez will probably get one this offseason to give the Tigers six big contracts.
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The good news for the Tigers is that all of those contracts still have upside as they look forward to 2016. Verlander has 5 years left on his deal at $28 million per season, Cabrera has 5 years left on his deal with an average of $29.2 million remaining on his deal, Martinez has 3 years remaining at $18 million per season, Kinsler has 3 years remaining on his deal at an average of $10 million, and Sanchez has 3 years remaining with an average of $12.8 million per season.
Verlander and Cabrera’s contracts are incredibly expensive, but they are both performing. Verlander’s contract was a regrettable decision as soon as it was signed, but now is the best it has looked. Verlander has a 2.79 ERA and a 0.964 WHIP in the second half of the season including a 1-hit shutout. It finally looks like Verlander is healthy and is learning how to pitch with the arsenal he has. Verlander is once again the centerpiece of the rotation and should lead the staff in 2016.
Miguel Cabrera is slumping now, but is still the best pure hitter on the planet. If he can remain healthy, Cabrera will anchor the Tigers’ lineup for the rest of his career.
Quietly, Kinsler has had two of his most productive seasons in terms of hits and batting average, has been strong in the field, and has delivered the most clutch hits for the Tigers in 2015. He has solidified the second base position and is worth the money the Tigers are paying him plus the money they are still giving to Prince Fielder.
Much like Verlander and Cabrera, health problems has plagued Sanchez and Victor Martinez in 2015, but both should be able to return and play to their contract value when healthy. Sanchez has pitched above his 6-year $80 million contract worth, especially in the season where he won the ERA crown. Sanchez had a season full of anomalies and should be back to a number two starter in 2016 if healthy.
The contract with the biggest chance of busting at this point is Victor Martinez’s deal. Martinez was never completely healthy this season and never found any rhythm. If he continues to struggle, the middle of the Tigers’ order looks drastically different. Kinsler, Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez are strong, but there is a noticeable difference with healthy Victor. With the Tigers’ struggles on the mound, the Tigers need their lineup to carry them to win.
The Tigers traded away their top free agents at the trade deadline and now need to decide if they will re-sign Alex Avila and Rajai Davis. Either way, the Tigers have the core of their lineup set for the future, especially if Victor Martinez can produce.
The Tigers have a 1-2 combination once again in Verlander and Sanchez, but will need to rely on Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd to make strides forward in 2016. They will also need to sign at least one starting pitcher in the free agent market and try build design a competent bullpen to try to contend.