The 2013-2014-2015 Philadelphia Phillies were the classic case of big salaries gone bad. The team handed out massive deals to players nearing the end of their prime that eventually turned into a who's who of terrible MLB contracts.
In 2014, the team paid out three of the top six contracts in Major League Baseball and that list doesn't include additional $11 million payouts for Jimmy Rollins and A.J. Burnett that came off the books this year. The contracts sabotaged any retooling efforts and forced the franchise to blow up the squad, bottom out, and try again.
Other than the team still paying Ryan Howard that absolutely hilarious $25 million salary (still the fifth highest in the majors), they have more or less purged every other old guard player from their books. This exercise culminated today when the team paid Cliff Lee $12.5 million to not play for their team. Thanks, Ruben.
Look at these 2015 salaries:
- Cole Hamels: $23.5 million
- Ryan Howard: $25 million
- Cliff Lee: $25 million
- Chase Utley: $15 million
- Jonathan Papelbon: $13 million and physical altercation considerations
Many have predicted that the Tigers would be the next victim of the epic contract disease as there are plenty of similarities to the Phillies. The Tigers have $105 million tied to five players for the next two years. Additionally, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera will be making $28 million and $30 million, respectively, until 2019 (with Miggy carrying through 2023!) while the 2018 season will feature a 39-year-old Victor Martinez.
The difference is that these players hopefully won't have such a precipitous fall from grace. Some of this may be deemed wishful thinking, but stick with me. Verlander's end of season metrics were some of the best of his career and pointed toward him having finally figured out how to pitch without a 100 mile-per-hour fastball. With a full offseason of being healthy (and dogs), he should be ready to operate as the No. 1 starter the Tigers need. Miggy is Miggy, nuff said. And Ian Kinsler had another solid season as an above average second baseman. Also, he is not owed $24 million dollars until 2020 like Prince Fielder, which is nice.
The wild cards are Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez. Victor's terrible 2015 was pretty straightforward. He was hurt, came back too early, and was never right. Because of this, he posted his lowest numbers in every statistical category in his career. In spite of this injury and progressing age, he is still one of the best pure hitters the game has seen in recent years. Get ready for a massive return after an offseason of healing. If you play fantasy baseball, buy cheap, reap the rewards.
Anibal is less straightforward. It's tough to point to one factor that contributed to such a terrible 2015. And clearly Jeff Jones didn't have an answer either. Sure there were injuries, but if he can regain any form he should be a bounce back candidate as well.
So while the Tigers have significant sunk costs, those investments should yield enough returns for them to compete for the foreseeable future. There is no denying that the back end of the Verlander and Cabrera contracts could get ugly, but with some smart signings in this offseason, the Tigers should avoid the Phillies fate and return to respectability in 2016.
Tigers open for business, but options could be limited - Detroit News, Lynn Henning
Lynn figures that free agents and in-house options, rather than trades, will have more to say about re-crafting the Tigers roster.
Cutting down on K's is next hurdle for Tigers’ prospect Jones - Detroit News, Chris McCosky
The key piece in the Joakim Soria trade swings a big bat, but 165 strikeouts last season alone rings some alarm.
Rondon will have to earn clean slate in 2016 - Detroit News, Chris McCosky
There is an off season plan in place for the Tigers' deposed closer Bruce Rondon. Whether he follows the plan, well, that remains to be seen.
Dusty Baker Is Not a Bad Hire - FanGraphs Baseball, Jeff Sullivan
I'm with Jeff here, I think the hate has gone too far.
Rajai Davis: Affordable, Talented, and Available - Motor City Bengals, Kristen Bentley
According to MCB, Rajai Davis is a free agent that the Detroit Tigers should resign for 2016. He is affordable and talented at his position and at the plate.
Thirty years - Royals Review, Max Rieper
Tigers are next. I hope.