After several years of watching their payroll climb with arbitration raises paid out to core players like Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, and Rick Porcello, the Detroit Tigers don't have much to worry about this winter. Only six players currently on the Tigers' 40-man roster are eligible for arbitration this offseason, and infielder Josh Wilson has already been informed that he will not be tendered a contract.
The other five -- J.D. Martinez, Jose Iglesias, Andrew Romine, Al Alburquerque, and Neftali Feliz -- are projected to earn just over $6.5 million in arbitration raises this winter, a small drop in the bucket compared to the Tigers' total payroll. Over 70 percent of that estimated dollar total will be for J.D. Martinez, who is projected to more than double his $3 million salary from 2015. The Tigers have already expressed interest in signing Martinez to a long-term extension, so his salary may rise even higher if the two parties can work out a deal.
Here are the salary estimates, per Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors.
J.D. Martinez: $7.8 million
Neftali Feliz: $5.2 million
Al Alburquerque: $2.1 million
Jose Iglesias: $1.5 million
Andrew Romine: $700,000
Josh Wilson: $700,000
Feliz, a disappointment in his half-season with the Tigers, may be another non-tender candidate. The 27-year-old righthander will earn clout with an arbiter because of his gaudy save totals with the Texas Rangers several years ago, but he allowed a 7.62 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 28 1/3 innings with the Tigers this season. His fastball velocity continued to improve following his Tommy John surgery in 2012, but a lackluster walk rate and declining strikeout rate make him an unappealing bullpen option for 2016.
The most interesting projection belongs to Jose Iglesias, who made $1.443 million last season. Swartz's model likely does not account for Iglesias missing the entire 2014 season and the slight salary hit he took because of his injury, so his estimate is low. My uneducated guess would be in the $3 million neighborhood, but it's not going to break the bank either way.
The Tigers will obviously need to account for these raises when projecting their payroll for the 2016 season, but the raises due likely will not preclude them from signing free agents or making trades in order to fill holes on the roster. With a healthy amount of money coming off the payroll this winter, the Tigers still have a fair amount of financial flexibility to fill out their roster for 2016.