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Tigers' pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes shows they mean business

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The Tigers are (apparently) among six teams negotiating with Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Jim Bowden of MLB Radio and ESPN.com reported last night on Twitter.

I say "apparently" because it's hard to tell from Bowden's tweets if this is new information or not. Over the past few weeks, we've heard that six teams are chasing Cespedes and that the Tigers are one of them. Bowden does use the word "negotiations," which indicates this is probably new information. Cespedes was declared a free agent last Wednesday, which was kind of lost among all the Prince Fielder news. Teams could not negotiate with Cespedes before then. So this would tell us even after signing Fielder, they still want to do more.

If true, the Tigers are not nearly as tapped out as some pundits declared them to be. Pursuing Cespedes would indicate the Tigers are comfortable with a higher budgetary floor for the coming years. In chatting with me, fellow BYB author Matt Wallace put it this way: "If they still go hard at (Cespedes), I'd take it as an indicator that Fielder is almost 'set aside' funds." In other words, that $23-24 million a year going to Fielder? Don't worry about it. Ilitch will pick up the tab.

And why would he do that? Crain's Detroit Business author Bill Shea recently detailed the myriad financial ties the Ilitch family has with downtown Detroit. From real estate to parking towers to Olympia Entertainment to a casino to, yes, pizza. Paying for a superstar like Fielder may pay for itself in the long run by getting more bodies and excitement downtown to Ilitch's other businesses.

Shea quotes baseball economics expert Andrew Zimbalist:

"Given his wealth and his wife's wealth and their myriad business interests, it's quite plausible what he's doing with the Tigers is maximizing his wealth portfolio," Zimbalist said. "If the Tigers are successful on the field, if he's got superstars playing for him, he thinks people will be more likely to gamble, to eat pizza."

Ilitch said during the press conference last week:

"I go by my instincts like everybody else does in business, and my instincts told me this is going to work out just fine. I don't have any concerns. I'm not nervous about it."

So it's a big picture thing from the owner's point of view, while the Tigers themselves may show some red in the budget.

It's clear that Ilitch and the Tigers want to win. They want to win a lot of games, and they want to win six more playoff games than they did in 2011. They want to win the World Series. And they're committed to doing everything they can to getting that done. If they feel like Cespedes -- or a veteran pitcher, or whatever -- helps them to do that, anything is game.

(Via MLB Trade Rumors)