Matt Swartz has a fairly accurate model for projecting the salaries of Major League Baseball players who are eligible for arbitration each season, and those are published by MLB Trade Rumors every year. They have come out with the numbers for this offseason, with five Tigers potentially eligible for salary increases this winter.
The Tigers took care of two potential arbitration cases recently, when they put outfielder Andy Dirks on waivers and outrighted Don Kelly to the minors. Kelly has subsequently opted for free agency. Another case will be resolved if the Tigers exercise the $5.4 million option on Alex Avila for the 2014 season, which appears to be very likely. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that they will.
That would leave four players -- pitchers Rick Porcello, David Price, and Al Alburquerque, along with outfielder J.D. Martinez -- eligible for arbitration this winter. Outfielder Austin Jackson would also have been eligible had he not been traded to Seattle in the deal that brought Price to Detroit.
Here are the projected salaries for the Tigers' arbitration eligible players.
Based on the above projections, the five players would receive salary increases totaling $11.5 million. We had earlier estimated that the four players would receive a combined salary increase of $11.6 million.
The $18.6 million salary for Price would be the highest paid to any Tigers player prior to their free agent eligible seasons, topping Miguel Cabrera's $14.4 million in 2009 and Justin Verlander's $12.9 million in 2011. Price would be the third-highest paid Tiger next season, and Porcello would have the sixth highest salary. Together with Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, the four top starting pitchers would be earning a total of $75.6 million.
Players with at least two years and approximately 120 days of major league service time are eligible for salary arbitration. After six years of service time, they are eligible to become free agents. Salary figures will be exchanged between clubs and player in January, with hearings in February if the two sides can not agree on a salary. No Tigers player has gone all the way to an arbitration hearing during Dave Dombrowski's tenure as general manager.
The Tigers have approximately $46.7 million coming off the payroll due to expiring contracts for free agent players, but about $9 million in scheduled salary increases for current players. After letting Dirks and Kelly g, and picking up the options on Soria and Avila, there will be room on the payroll to start filling some holes on the roster. But by the time they sign or replace their free agent players, payroll is still expected to easily exceed the 2014 Opening Day payroll of $163.6 million.