The big talk that went down when Prince Fielder was traded away to the Texas Rangers along with $30 million in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler was that the Tigers were creating financial flexibility for the future, perhaps to allow them to sign both Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera to extensions worth more money than you and your offspring could ever hope to dream to make in 10 lifetimes. Mike Illitch isn’t George Steinbrenner, and the Tigers couldn’t spend willy-nilly as they pleased. Getting out from under Prince Fielder’s larger than life contract was a blessing for the Tigers financial wise. Further moves seemed to confirm this logic, when Doug Fister was traded and the money was immediately spent on Rajai Davis and Joe Nathan. But is this really the case that the Tigers made these move with their financial backs against the wall in mind? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
Prince Fielder was traded with $166 million remaining on his contract. The Tigers owe the Rangers $30 million of that total deal. The total amount of money, both guaranteed and not guaranteed, remaining on Ian Kinsler is $67 million. The total sum of money the Tigers thus owe as the cost of dealing Fielder is $97 million. Thus, the Tigers saved approximately $69 million of the money they owed to Prince Fielder. This all adds up to the Tigers saving 42% of the money they owed to Prince Fielder.
Generally, when you are trying to get out from under a bad contract, you don’t settle for a deal where you aren’t getting out from under over 50% of the deal. So maybe the Tigers weren’t in any sort of urgency to free up money on the books afterall.
But what about the Fister deal? They spent the money they would have paid to Fister on Joe Nathan. Accountants frown at such logic. The money was never spent on Fister. It was never saved. As a source that I have the utmost trust told me, Fister rejected an extension offer in hopes to move back to the west coast as a free agent. At that point, Dombrowski was forced to trade Fister, as his value could only go down at this point. If the Tigers had held on to Fister for this year, they would have gotten peanuts for him with only one year left of controllability. We can’t really say the Tigers saved money by trading Fister.
So we don’t really have a definitive argument that the Tigers needed to clear money off the books and rearrange them [books] because they were up against it. On the contrary, due to recent events there is all the more evidence that the opposite was the case, that money not only isn’t an issue in Detroit, but is no object either to the Illitch ownership group:
Dombrowski says they could've signed both Cabrera & Scherzer "We had both negotiations going simultaneously. We were trying to sign both"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) March 30, 2014
Dave Dombrowski makes it no secret that the Tigers were out to re-sign both Miguel Cabrera AND Max Scherzer. Not one or the other. Both. And we know the money that was offered to both of them. Miguel Cabrera got $248 million on top of the money left on his deal. Max Scerzer was offered $144 million. Combined, the Tigers were prepared to spend $392 million on two players. Just two players. And we don’t even know what Fister was offered.
Taking those numbers into context then, the Tigers, in shedding Fielder’s contract, freed up approximately 18% of the money they were prepared to spend on Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer. 18%. That’s miniscule. That’s Adam Everett’s batting average. Does Dave Dombrowski not know how to handle money then? Did he miserably fail in clearing money off the books to make the team affordable? No. That’s definitely not the case. Dombrowski always knows what he’s doing 9.999999 times out of 10.
All things considered, money is not an issue in Detroit. In fact, I feel confident in saying it’s become an object to Mr. Illitch. We truly are in a golden age of Detroit Baseball. Not only is the team playing at an historical level, but the owner has created a successful business model and has spared no expense in funding this team.