The Detroit Tigers have a huge opportunity this offseason. They have a ton of money coming off the books, with Miguel Cabrera and (likely) Eduardo Rodriguez coming off the payroll. They have a chance to make some noise and be competitive in 2024.
However, one local outlet doesn't think they'll take that chance. Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press recently cruched some numbers to get an idea of what the Tigers payroll could be in 2024. Long story short, he projected that it would be under $100 million.
Going through all the numbers, including opt-outs and assuming all arbitration-eligible players are re-signed for simplicity, the Tigers payroll heading into the Winter Meetings would be about $60.3 million. This is also assuming Eduardo Rodriguez opts out and does not re-sign with the Tigers, a decision that could very well be made by the time this article is out.
We would certainly hope the payroll would be higher than that, and even higher than $100 million. The Cincinnati Reds were 23rd in baseball with a payroll of about $96.5 million according to Spotrac, and while they just missed out on a playoff spot, spending on just one high-impact player last offseason may have gotten them over the hump.
There were only two teams with payrolls under $100 million that made the playoffs in 2023 — the Rays and the Orioles. Eight of the last 10 World Series winners have had top-10 payrolls in baseball. Spending money equates to winning. There are other factors, of course, but investing in good players on the free agent market has proven to work more often than not.
Everyone points the Moneyball A's, as well as the Rays as examples of how you can win with a low payroll. But how many World Series have those two teams won using their methods? I'll give you a hint: it's less than one.
The point is, the Tigers need to spend this offseason. The AL Central is right there for the taking. Cleveland, the White Sox, and the Royals all either have major question marks or are rebuilding. Their only real compeition is the Twins, and they won the season series against them in 2023.
The free agent class isn't great this offseason, but there are still some solid mid-tier free agents out there. And this doesn't even take into account that they could take on a contract via trade. It's time to act like a serious organization.
Quite frankly, a payroll under $100 million would be embarrassing. We're not asking them to have a payroll of $200+ million like the Dombrowksi days (though that would sure be nice), we just want them to not act like a poverty franchise. It's time to start winning.