Chris Ilitch’s Decision May Spell Trouble For The Detroit Tigers

Michael Critchley
LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 18: A detailed view of a Detroit Tigers flag flying during the Spring Training workout day at the TigerTown Facility on February 18, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 18: A detailed view of a Detroit Tigers flag flying during the Spring Training workout day at the TigerTown Facility on February 18, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Chris Ilitch’s decision to reject the MLB’s already embarrassing CBT proposal could result in many negative consequences for the Detroit Tigers in the future.

As most of you already know, Chris Ilitch was one of the four owners who voted against the MLB’s proposal last week that included a competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold of 220 million dollars. The proposal was never going to be accepted by the players due to the threshold being too low, but Ilitch felt the opposite and believed that the CBT was too high and voted against the MLB offering this proposal.

This is an extremely bad look for the Detroit Tigers organization and reaffirms the belief that many individuals hold, that Ilitch cares more about making money than he does about winning games or putting a product out onto the field that fans of the Detroit Tigers can be proud of.

The optics of Ilitch’s rejection are terrible, and sends the wrong message to the players that the owner of the organization does not care enough to spend money to improve the product that each of them dedicate their lives to on a daily basis. In addition, Ilitch’s actions could also lead to long term consequences for the Detroit Tigers organization, namely in the areas of free agents and the coaching staff.

Ilitch voting against the league’s proposal sends a message to the entire league that he is not willing to carry anything close to a payroll that is near the luxury tax threshold and that he is not going to entertain the idea of signing players to very expensive contracts. As has been illustrated over the past few off-seasons, player contracts are consistently increasing, and having an owner like Ilitch will significantly hinder the Tigers chances of signing elite free agents because both the player and his agent will know that Ilitch has no intention of spending the amount of money required to acquire the player. The CBT rejection will result in Ilitch gaining a reputation, and rightfully so, as a “cheapskate” and players on the free agent market along with agents who have major pull on player decisions, will stay away from Detroit.

In addition, Ilitch’s decision could have negative effects revolving around manager AJ Hinch. I think every Detroit Tigers fan can agree that the team hit the lottery when they were able to sign Hinch in November of 2020. Hinch is regarded as one of the best managers in baseball by many, and his impact was clearly seen throughout the 2021 season with the team greatly overachieving despite injuries and the inherent flaws on the roster. AJ Hinch is also a winner, and he will not tolerate being on a team whose owner is not fully invested in putting a winning product on the field. I would be willing to bet that when Hinch was interviewing with the Tigers, there were certain assurances made to him that the team would spend the necessary amount of money to bring in high-impact players.

Although players such as Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez were signed this offseason, the Detroit Tigers still hold a payroll that is under league average, and the jury is still out on how these signings will fare for the Tigers. Hinch has an opt-out in his contract after the 2022 season, and if he is not confident in the direction the team is headed along with the commitment of Ilitch to improve the team, I could see a scenario where he opts out of his deal and starts fresh elsewhere.

Detroit Tigers
Tigers manager AJ Hinch makes a pitching change during the 4-0 loss to the Royals on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Comerica Park.Tigers Kc3 /

As I stated earlier, Hinch is one of the best managers in baseball, and I am sure that many teams around the league would jump at the chance to acquire his services. Another interesting caveat is that Dusty Baker is on a one year contract with the Houston Astros, and is definitely not getting any younger with many individuals questioning how much longer he is going to manage. That would seem like a convenient switch for Hinch, as he could walk back into the team he took to the World Series twice.

Hinch also lives in Houston during the offseason and is still beloved by the Astros players and fans even after the infamous sign-stealing scandal that resulted in him losing his job. I am not saying this is what is going to happen, but I certainly would not be shocked if Hinch was to go back to the Astros after this season if he felt that Chris Ilitch was not serious in improving the team, which would not be an unfair assumption.

As showcased throughout history, Detroit is one of the best baseball cities in the world, and has undoubtedly the most passionate and most loyal fans in the world who care greatly about their team. It is disheartening to see that the man who runs the team does not show the same passion, and I fear that his desire to make money at the expense of the quality of the product produced will ultimately spell trouble for the team.

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