For the past several years the Tigers have spent big and gone for it. They’ve handed out large, multi-year contracts to superstars and have made blockbuster trades, all of which screamed “win now, the cost be damned.” As of yesterday, that era appears to be over.
General Manager Al Avila spoke to the press yesterday. He said a lot of things, but all of them pointed to one fairly clear course of action: the Tigers are getting out of the free agent business and may very well be selling off some high priced talent:
“We certainly want to stay competitive. We certainly want to be able to try to get back in the playoffs, But at the same time, this organization has been working way above its means as far as payroll for many, many years, and it [has] put us in a situation where quite frankly, it’s difficult to maneuver.
Avila talked about getting “leaner” and more “efficient.” He made references to youth and defense, but it’s clear he meant financially as well. The money spigot owner Mike Ilitch has allowed to stay open for years is going to be turned tightly to the right as the Tigers reposition.
What that means for any given player is unclear — they’re not likely to shop Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander, for example — but Jason Beck of MLB.com sketches out what the near future may look like over at his blog. The upshot: the Tigers won’t be big players on the free agent market, they’re going to be “open minded,” to use Avila’s words, when other clubs ask about, basically, any player, and they’re going to put more money and effort into their farm system and analytics operation.
The Tigers have been the biggest financial dog in the AL Central for many years now, but it hasn’t translated to the playoffs for two straight years now and hasn’t translated to a pennant for four years. The core isn’t getting younger and the dollars aren’t getting smaller on that path. So a new path would appear to be the order of the day in Detroit.