The Tigers’ decision to release Brennan Boesch on Wednesday was not all about money. If it were all about money, the club wouldn’t have signed him to a $ 2.3 million contract for the 2013 season. Boesch was released under Rule 7(b)2 of the uniform player’s contract, for performance reasons. Of course, you know the rules if you read this article on BYB last month.
The big money decision wasn’t Wednesday. That comes later. Since he was released more than 15 days before opening day, the Tigers will pay Boesch just one sixth of his salary, equal to $ 383,333.33. Had they waited until just before opening day, they’d have had to pay him one quarter of his salary, or $ 575,000.00. That’s a difference of under $ 200,000.00
If the club felt that there was any significant chance that Boesch could be the player that he was in the first half of the 2010 or the first half of the 2011 season, when he put up all star like numbers, they’d have hung on to make the decision. But they obviously felt pretty strongly that it wasn't going to happen.
Just 16 at bats into spring training, Boesch was let go. The Tigers had seen enough. Whether it was his approach, or the lack of pitch recognition, or something else, the club went from being willing to pay him 2.3 million for a season, to letting him go for nothing. Of course, money is always part of every decision, but this is not a club that’s looking to save money by letting players go if there’s a chance that they’ll help the team. This was about Boesch, and what he did, or didn’t do at the plate.
In fact, if the Tigers let Boesch go for financial reasons, the MLBPA would have a legitimate grievance. The club can terminate a player’s contract if he fails to exhibit the skills needed to help the team. But once they sign on the dotted line, releasing a player just so they don’t have to pay him would be considered bad faith.
If it was about money, the club could have non tendered him last December. But they didn’t. In fact, they gave him about $ 200 grand more than what he was projected to get in arbitration as a first time eligible, full time outfielder. They’d have loved nothing more than to get the good Boesch back. But he didn't show up, and now he’s gone.
While Boesch was putting up monster numbers in the first halves of his first two seasons, it's easy to see why they stuck with him through abysmal performances game after game in the second halves of those seasons. But when he struggled during the entire 2012 season month after month, they stuck by him, logging over 500 plate appearances while posting the second worst WAR in the majors.
The Tigers could have sent Boesch to Toledo, and let Leon "Bull" Durham try to work his magic and get him back on track. He does have a couple of options left, but there is nothing he has left to prove by tearing up minor league pitching.
Some will say that the Tigers did Boesch a favor, by letting him go now, rather than just before opening day, when clubs have their rosters set. At least now, it stands to reason, he has a better shot to catch on with another club. If the decision had been made to let him go, that he wasn’t going to make the team, then this may be true.
Dave Dombrowski told the media that they had made efforts to trade Boesch and his contract to another club, but there were unsurprisingly no takers. He’ll be put on waivers, and any club that wants him can have him, but they’d be on the hook for his full contract. He will clear waivers, and he will become a free agent. He will then be happy to get a contract with another organization that will give him a shot at playing in the major leagues. The Yankees are reportedly interested, as are several other clubs.
The bottom line for Boesch is that he had an opportunity, he wowed us with his power and his ability at times, but in the end, he couldn’t consistently hit major league pitching. At least not enough to make the team that has high hopes for the 2013 season. Good luck, Mr. Basch. We hope you can sort things out. Preferably, in the National League.