The Detroit Tigers have made their decisions on arbitration offers. And with them comes the end to something of an era.
Perhaps it's a bit much to call Placido Polanco's five-year stint (okay, four-and-a-half) with the Tigers an "era," but he was an important part of Detroit's return to prominence in the American League. With the team officially deciding not to offer Polanco arbitration, however, it's more than likely that his career with the Tigers is over. And that's a pretty big indication of changes to come around Comerica Park in the next couple of seasons.
But the Tigers did offer arbitration to relievers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon. Either (or both) could be valuable assets to Detroit's bullpen next year, which is probably why the team decided it was worth the players potentially accepting arbitration and receiving significant raises. The chances of the Tigers re-signing both pitchers are low, given that the team is presumably working with a limited payroll this offseason. But they do need a closer, and would surely like to bring one of them back.
This year, Rodney made $2.7 million while notching 37 saves. Lyon made $4.25 million as a valuable set-up man, posting a 2.43 ERA. However, if both Rodney and Lyon are looking for multi-year contracts - and their respective agents say they are - they'll likely reject the offer and see what they can get in the free agent market.
Back to Polanco, the downside of not offering him arbitration is that the Tigers won't receive the two first-round picks they were entitled to as compensation for losing a Type A free agent. But the team apparently felt that wasn't worth the risk of Polanco accepting arbitration and probably having to pay him more than the $4.6 million he was paid in each of the last four seasons. With Scott Sizemore ready to play for the league minimum next year, that doesn't make a lot of sense for a team looking to control costs.
In addition, Polanco might have found himself waiting for quite a while this offseason, as many teams would likely be scared off by having to surrender their first-round draft pick to sign him. Players such as Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu were looking for contracts after January this year. Juan Cruz didn't sign until after Spring Training had begun. Would that have prevented some teams from looking at Polanco at all? It seems unlikely, but it's possible. So even though neither Polanco or the Tigers might see it this way, the team probably did him a favor by not hanging that price tag on him.
Rodney and Lyon both qualified as Type B free agents, so any team that signs them won't have to give up their first-round pick. The Tigers would, however, receive draft picks for either player, with the selections being between the first and second rounds.