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Detroit Tigers: Are the Players Too Expensive to Trade?

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Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s no secret that the Detroit Tigers had one of the highest payrolls in 2016. Their season-ending payroll of $205 million – ranked fourth behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox.

Despite that epic payroll, the Detroit Tigers did not make it into the playoffs.

Surprisingly, the Chicago Cubs and their expanding payroll reached $188 million by the end of the season. The Cleveland Indians remained in the bottom third in 21st place with a payroll of $114 million.

With a little simple math, the average payroll in the MLB is $140 million. In order for a team to take on one of the expensive contracts of the Detroit Tigers players, that team will need to raise their payroll by a significant amount.

Will teams spend in 2017? Probably not.

Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball to relieve starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (7) takes the ball to relieve starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the success of the Cleveland Indians and the lack of success for the Tigers and the Yankees, as well as the Dodgers, it is likely that teams will shy away from excessively high payrolls. Yes, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, but their payroll skyrocketed in 2016 as the reality became clear.

In the previous two years, the Chicago Cubs had low salaries. In 2015, the Cubs paid $133 million and in 2014, their salary obligations were actually under $100 million at $92 million. Seeing that this team-for-the-ages was built by spending low – until it mattered – many of the 29 other teams are poised to replicate the Cubs’ success.

For the time being, the Cubs will continue to have a top-10 payroll, especially with the cumbersome contracts of Jon Lester and Jason Heyward eating up more than $50 million combined. They will lose the $11 million contract that Aroldis Chapman devoured, as the flame-throwing left-handed pitcher is now a free agent.

The last time the Detroit Tigers had a payroll under $100 million was in 2007.

Everyone Wants to Be Like Theo

The new age of buying low and winning big is here. In this new age of frugality, the Tigers are going to have difficulty trading away their players. Especially those whose salaries combined cost as much as the entire Cleveland Indians roster. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Victor Martinez, and Jordan Zimmermann have salaries that add up to $114 million.

As teams look to get more by spending less, the goal of the Tigers is going to be difficult to achieve.

At least this year.

There seem to be a few teams that are ready to spend, like the Astros, the Dodgers, and the Giants. But why should any team consider spending $28 million for one year for one player (Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander) when the team can get two or more players for less?

Big Spending Does Not Guarantee Wins

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Unfortunately, those pricey players have not delivered any World Series championships to the Tigers. This makes their excessive prices even more undesirable. In 2016, the Tigers won 4 of the 18 games they played against the $114 million Indians. Dollars do not necessarily guarantee wins.

Therefore, the other question is why would teams with inexpensive “home-grown” talent trade them away for overpriced older players? If the Tigers trade away talent like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, or Ian Kinsler, Al Avila expects to get good players in exchange (as he should). But, why on earth would teams like the Astros exchange someone like Alex Bregman and a few others for four or five years of Miguel Cabrera? At the young age of 22, Bregman is a player who will be under Astros’ control for several years at the league minimum.

Next: Is there any good news in Detroit Tigers land?

During the 2017 Hot Stove season, we can expect to see rumors about the Tigers and their potential trade partners. But, as teams cut coupons to get the players, fans can expect to see a recycled 2016 team in 2017.

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