The Detroit Tigers have six players who are eligible for arbitration this offseason. According to the estimates published by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors, the Tigers are expected to pay $12 million in total salaries for the group. That represents an increase of $5.9 million over the salaries that those six players received in 2016.
Three players will be arbitration eligible for the first time. Third baseman Nick Castellanos is projected to receive a salary of $2.8 million, the largest projected raise of the group. Reliever Bruce Rondon is projected to receive $ 900,000, and Alex Wilson’s 2017 salary is projected at $1.2 million. Each of those players earned just above the major league minimum salary in 2016.
Three additional players will be arbitration-eligible for the second time. Shortstop Jose Iglesias was paid $2.1 million in 2016 and is expected to get a raise to $3.2 million. Reliever Justin Wilson’s salary is expected to increase from $1.525 million to $2.7 million, and Andrew Romine is projected to get a raise from $900,000 to $1.2 million. Each of those three players will be eligible for arbitration for the third and final time after the 2017 season. They will hit free agency after the 2018 season unless they sign a contract extension prior to that point.
J.D. Martinez would have been eligible for arbitration for the third time this offseason, but he signed a two-year contract last winter. That deal paid him $6.75 million in 2016 and will pay him $11.75 million in 2017. He will be a free agent after next season if he is not extended.
The Tigers have no players currently on the roster in their arbitration years who are set to become free agents after the 2016 or 2017 seasons. Anthony Gose would have been eligible for arbitration if he had remained in the major leagues for at least half of the regular season in 2016.
The six arbitration eligible players received salaries totaling $6.109 million for the 2016 season. The $5.9 million increase is relatively modest by comparison with what teams generally have to absorb in arbitration increases in a typical offseason. The Tigers have historically paid players above their arbitration projections, but even those increases won’t break the bank.
The Tigers are in a position where they can bring back their entire starting roster for next season without a large increase in payroll over the previous year. This includes Francisco Rodriguez and Cameron Maybin, who have team options for the 2017 season. The two club options would cost the team just $1.9 million above what they paid them in 2016. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and infielder Erick Aybar are the only free agents on the regular 25-man roster. Replacing them internally would save the club enough to offset the increases for Maybin and Rodriguez.
Of course, any increase in payroll could be a concern with a payroll already in luxury tax territory over $200 million. However, the tax threshold is expected to increase in the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The tax structure, if there is one in the next CBA, could go a long way to determining whether and how much owner Mike Ilitch is willing to spend on payroll for the 2017 season.