FanPost

Did the Tigers have to trade Doug Fister for flexibility?

Earlier I looked at the financial flexibility that the Tigers gained and why the needed to do so. But while writing that and looking at the amount of flexibility gained, I stared to wonder, "Did they really need to trade off Fister to get payroll under control?" So I went back and began to experiment with different scenarios in the rosters I made looking out to 2016. Some of the results were quite interesting and there were a couple of things that became quite clear.

In the previous I looked at the Tigers financial flexibility assuming a payroll cap around $165M. When calculating the current roster and extensions for Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, and Austin Jackson. The projected payroll in 2014 was $153.7M, in 2015 $154.7M, and $155.4M in 2016. While the payroll doesn't change much over the next 3 years, the lineup grows progressively weaker and more reliant on younger and cheaper talent to keep payroll down.

For this post I'll look at some different scenarios to see what difference keeping or moving different players would have. In all the scenarios I included the Joe Nathan signing as that was apparently key to the motivation to trade off Fister and Fielder. I also kept the extensions of Cabrera, Scherzer, and Jackson for most of the scenarios.

Trade No One

As a baseline I wanted to see just how bad payroll gets if we had kept Prince Fielder and Doug Fister.

2014 Lineup


2015 Lineup


2016 Lineup

Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary

Prince Fielder

1B

$24,000,000


Miguel Cabrera

1B

$22,000,000


Miguel Cabrera

1B

$29,000,000

Hernan Perez

2B

$500,000


Hernan Perez

2B

$500,000


Devon Travis

2B

$510,000

Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,200,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,500,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$3,750,000

Miguel Cabrera

3B

$22,000,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$600,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$525,000

Alex Avila

C

$3,700,000


Alex Avila

C

$6,750,000


James McCann

C

$510,000

Austin Jackson

CF

$5,300,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$8,500,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$12,500,000

Nick Castellanos

LF

$525,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$2,650,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$3,600,000

Torii Hunter

RF

$14,000,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$505,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$510,000

Victor Martinez

DH

$12,000,000


Prince Fielder

DH

$24,000,000


Prince Fielder

DH

$24,000,000









Brian Holoday

BN-C

$500,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$505,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$520,000

Danny Worth

BN-IF

$520,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$900,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$1,700,000

Don Kelly

BN-OF

$1,000,000


????

BN-OF

$505,000


Hernan Perez

BN-OF

$510,000

Andy Dirks

LF

$1,700,000


????

BN

$505,000


????

BN

$510,000









Justin Verlander

SP

$20,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000

Max Scherzer

SP

$16,700,000


Max Scherzer

SP

$21,000,000


Max Scherzer

SP

$24,000,000

Anibal Sanchez

SP

$15,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000

Rick Porcello

SP

$7,700,000


Rick Porcello

SP

$9,750,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$5,100,000

Doug Fister

SP

$6,900,000


Doug Fister

SP

$10,000,000


Jonathan Sanchez

SP

$510,000









Joe Nathan

RP

$9,000,000


Joe Nathan

RP

$10,000,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$520,000

Bruce Rondon

RP

$500,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$505,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$525,000

Al Albuquerque

RP

$700,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$505,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$2,100,000

Drew Smyly

SP

$525,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$1,150,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$1,150,000

Luke Putkonen

RP

$500,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$3,100,000


????

RP

$510,000

Phil Coke

RP

$1,900,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$525,000


????

RP

$510,000

Evan Reed

RP

$500,000


????

RP

$505,000


????

RP

$510,000












2014 Payroll


2015 Payroll


2016 payroll

Guaranteed Contracts

$133,500,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$130,300,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$134,300,000

Arbitration

$28,900,000


Arbitration

$34,300,000


Arbitration

$17,400,000

Others

$6,270,000


Others

$7,660,000


Others

$8,780,000

Other Payroll

$150,000


Other Payroll

$0


Other Payroll

$1,000,000

TOTAL PAYROLL

$168,820,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$172,260,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$161,480,000

As can be seen, in 2014 the Tigers go over what may be their internal cap and in 2014 they exceed their sustainable limit. Even when things settle down a bit in 2016, our lineup and rotation are no better than they project to be with the current roster, and there is very little money to make any moves. Hernan Perez has to be our 2B in 2014-2015. After that Devon Travis might be ready or we stick with Perez. Cabrera eventually have to move out from 3rd with Nick Castellanos taking over. I'm guessing Miggy and Prince would alternate 1B and DH for a long time. The OF is still weak with Andy Dirks and a guy from our system like Daniel Fields manning the corners. Even more disappointing is that Smyly is wasting away in the pen till 2016, when we lose both Porcello and Fister to FA. It's pretty clear from this why they had to move guys out, especially Prince. But what about Fister? Did he really have to be traded off?

Trade Prince, Keep Fister

In this scenario, let's say the Fielder trade happens but we don't move Fister.

Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary

Miguel Cabrera

1B

$22,000,000


Miguel Cabrera

1B

$22,000,000


Ian Kinsler

1B

$14,000,000

Ian Kinsler

2B

$16,000,000


Ian Kinsler

2B

$16,000,000


Devon Travis

2B

$510,000

Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,200,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,500,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$3,750,000

Nick Castellanos

3B

$525,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$600,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$525,000

Alex Avila

C

$3,700,000


Alex Avila

C

$6,750,000


James McCann

C

$510,000

Austin Jackson

CF

$5,300,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$8,500,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$12,500,000

Andy Dirks

LF

$1,700,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$2,650,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$3,600,000

Torii Hunter

RF

$14,000,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$505,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$510,000

Victor Martinez

DH

$12,000,000


????

DH

$505,000


Miguel Cabrera

DH

$29,000,000









Brian Holoday

BN-C

$500,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$505,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$520,000

Danny Worth

BN-IF

$520,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$900,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$1,700,000

Don Kelly

BN-OF

$1,000,000


????

BN-OF

$505,000


????

BN-OF

$510,000

????

BN

$500,000


????

BN

$505,000


????

BN

$510,000









Justin Verlander

SP

$20,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000

Max Scherzer

SP

$16,700,000


Max Scherzer

SP

$21,000,000


Max Scherzer

SP

$24,000,000

Anibal Sanchez

SP

$15,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000

Rick Porcello

SP

$7,700,000


Rick Porcello

SP

$9,750,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$5,100,000

Doug Fister

SP

$6,900,000


Doug Fister

SP

$10,000,000


Jonathan Sanchez

SP

$510,000









Joe Nathan

RP

$9,000,000


Joe Nathan

RP

$10,000,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$520,000

Bruce Rondon

RP

$500,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$505,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$525,000

Al Albuquerque

RP

$700,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$505,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$2,100,000

Drew Smyly

SP

$525,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$1,150,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$1,150,000

Luke Putkonen

RP

$500,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$3,100,000


????

RP

$510,000

Phil Coke

RP

$1,900,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$525,000


????

RP

$510,000

Evan Reed

RP

$500,000


????

RP

$505,000


????

RP

$510,000









2014 Payroll


2015 Payroll


2016 payroll

Guaranteed Contracts

$125,500,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$122,300,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$124,300,000

Arbitration

$28,900,000


Arbitration

$34,300,000


Arbitration

$17,400,000

Others

$6,270,000


Others

$7,665,000


Others

$6,680,000

Other Payroll

$150,000


Other Payroll

$0


Other Payroll

$7,000,000

TOTAL PAYROLL

$160,820,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$164,265,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$155,380,000

In this scenario, payroll seems to be more under control. In 2014, we're at $160.8M, in 2015 it comes close to my assumed cap of $165M, before returning to $155M in 2015, the same level it was at in my projections with the current roster. The numbers work, but there no room to make many moves or additions beyond what we have. Certainly no room to add a DH without trading away a starter in 2015, but that seems like a very plausible option. Smyly though is still buried in the bullpen till 2016 (2015 if we trade a starter), and in 2016, we find ourselves in the same situation we are in now, except we will have to come up with a starter from our own system for the #5 spot, which Ray would currently occupy. As far as flexibility, keeping Fister would have put us in a bind the next 2 years, but after that it clears up. Perhaps management considered this scenario but was not comfortable with the limited flexibility? Or maybe they needed that space to make a signing they have not made yet? Or, maybe since they might have been destined to trade a starter they figured to maximize value by moving him with 2 years of controllability instead of 1? Perhaps more importantly, they didn't want to waste 1 or 2 years in the bullpen? Of course, if they could do something completely different...

Keep Fister long term, not Scherzer

In this final scenario, we'll take a look at what might have happened if the Tigers had decided Fister should be the 3rd member of the core rotation to keep long term, not Scherzer. Fielder was traded as before but now Scherzer is going to be allowed to walk after 2014, and Fister will get a deal similar to that given to Anibal Sanchez, which is probably a good estimate anyway.

2014 Lineup


2015 Lineup


2016 Lineup

Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary


Player

Position

Salary

Miguel Cabrera

1B

$22,000,000


Miguel Cabrera

1B

$22,000,000


Ian Kinsler

1B

$14,000,000

Ian Kinsler

2B

$16,000,000


Ian Kinsler

2B

$16,000,000


Devon Travis

2B

$510,000

Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,200,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$2,500,000


Jose Iglesias

SS

$3,750,000

Nick Castellanos

3B

$525,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$600,000


Nick Castellanos

3B

$525,000

Alex Avila

C

$3,700,000


Alex Avila

C

$6,750,000


James McCann

C

$510,000

Austin Jackson

CF

$5,300,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$8,500,000


Austin Jackson

CF

$12,500,000

Andy Dirks

LF

$1,700,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$2,650,000


Andy Dirks

LF

$3,600,000

Torii Hunter

RF

$14,000,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$505,000


Daniel Fields

RF

$510,000

Victor Martinez

DH

$12,000,000


????

DH

$505,000


Miguel Cabrera

DH

$29,000,000









Brian Holoday

BN-C

$500,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$505,000


Brian Holoday

BN-C

$520,000

Danny Worth

BN-IF

$520,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$900,000


Danny Worth

BN-IF

$1,700,000

Don Kelly

BN-OF

$1,000,000


????

BN-OF

$505,000


????

BN-OF

$510,000

????

BN

$500,000


????

BN

$505,000


????

BN

$510,000









Justin Verlander

SP

$20,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000


Justin Verlander

SP

$28,000,000

Max Scherzer

SP

$13,700,000


Doug Fister

SP

$9,500,000


Doug Fister

SP

$12,700,000

Anibal Sanchez

SP

$15,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000


Anibal Sanchez

SP

$16,800,000

Rick Porcello

SP

$7,700,000


Rick Porcello

SP

$9,750,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$5,100,000

Doug Fister

SP

$6,900,000


Drew Smyly

SP

$3,100,000


Jonathan Sanchez

SP

$510,000









Joe Nathan

RP

$9,000,000


Joe Nathan

RP

$10,000,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$520,000

Bruce Rondon

RP

$500,000


Bruce Rondon

RP

$505,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$525,000

Al Albuquerque

RP

$700,000


Corey Knebel

RP

$505,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$2,100,000

Drew Smyly

SP

$525,000


Al Albuquerque

RP

$1,150,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$1,150,000

Luke Putkonen

RP

$500,000


Luke Putkonen

RP

$525,000


????

RP

$510,000

Phil Coke

RP

$1,900,000


????

RP

$505,000


????

RP

$510,000

Evan Reed

RP

$500,000


????

RP

$505,000


????

RP

$510,000









2014 Payroll


2015 Payroll


2016 payroll

Guaranteed Contracts

$122,500,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$110,800,000


Guaranteed Contracts

$113,000,000

Arbitration

$28,900,000


Arbitration

$24,300,000


Arbitration

$17,400,000

Others

$6,270,000


Others

$8,170,000


Others

$6,680,000

Other Payroll

$150,000


Other Payroll

$0


Other Payroll

$7,000,000

TOTAL PAYROLL

$157,820,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$143,270,000


TOTAL PAYROLL

$144,080,000

Now we see that payroll opens wide up for 2015 and 2016. There's about 22M to sign a DH and make other moves. 2014 wasn't even that bad at only $157M. So why didn't we go down this road? Surely the Tigers front office had considered something like this. I think this speaks volumes as to whom they value more between Scherzer and Fister. I think it also speaks volumes about their determination to keep Scherzer. If they were anything less than 100% committed to locking up Scherzer, why would they let Fister go so readily? Maybe they really, really, like Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly over Fister? Or maybe they really do not have faith in Fister going forward? Whatever it is, they seem to have made a choice to leave about 11M in extra payroll space on the table.

We will probably never know the exact reasons behind their decisions but this provides an interesting look into what could have been.



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.

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