One thing we know for certain about Dave Dombrowski as a general manager is that he does not do arbitration. In his nine-year tenure with the Tigers, the team and arbitration-eligible players have always settled on a contract before a hearing could ever take place. (Though it could be argued in the cases of Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson that such a tactic might not always work out in Detroit's favor.)
The deadline to reach such an agreement is January 20, after which the process of exchanging figures, holding hearings, and possibly alienating players by renewing their contracts on the team's terms begins.
Detroit had seven players eligible for arbitration this winter, and checked two players off that list yesterday by signing Fernando Rodney and Marcus Thames to one-year contracts. Rodney's contract is for $2.7 million, a $1 million raise from what he was paid last season. And Thames's deal is worth $2.275 million, also up $1 million from last year. He'll likely be the Tigers' fourth outfielder, filling in at the corner outfield spots and designated hitter.
Rodney finished 2008 with a 0-6 record, 4.91 ERA, and 13 saves, with 49 strikeouts and 30 walks in 40.3 innings. He's currently set to be the Tigers' closer, as no other relievers are walking through that free agent door. Thames hit. 241/.292/.516 with 25 home runs and 56 RBIs in 103 games (342 plate appearances).
Waiting to be signed are Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, Gerald Laird, Bobby Seay, and Joel Zumaya. (Ramon Santiago agreed to a one-year, $825,000 contract in mid-December.) And with this, we also know why the Tigers have been so careful with their money this offseason. (I realize plenty of you already knew this, including several who have tried to talk me and others off the ledge while the pool of available free agent relievers keeps shrinking, but it's still important to note.)
Verlander's contract, of course, figures to be the biggie, as the Tigers would like to keep him in the Old English D for several years to come.