With rumors flying fast about which players might not last the offseason in Detroit, the Tigers gave some hint as to who will be on the team in 2017. The Tigers tendered 2017 contracts to all six of the arbitration-eligible players on their roster on Friday, including starting third baseman Nick Castellanos and shortstop Jose Iglesias. That those two would be retained was no surprise. Neither were the contracts tendered to relievers Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, and Bruce Rondon.
The sixth, however, carried some intrigue. Utility player Andrew Romine was also tendered a contract for next year after a relatively mundane 0.3 WAR season in 2016. Romine’s status was somewhat in doubt due to the Tigers’ desire to trim their payroll. Shortstop prospect Dixon Machado is also out of minor league options next season. Some viewed him as a potential replacement for Romine, though Machado has spent minimal time in the outfield throughout his professional career.
While the Tigers are now guaranteed to have all six players under contract for 2017, their contract values have yet to be determined. Through the arbitration process, the team and player (or their agent) attempt to negotiate a salary for the upcoming season. If the two teams cannot come to terms by mid-January, then the decision goes to an arbitration hearing.
The Tigers never went to a hearing while Dave Dombrowski was president and general manager, and new head man Al Avila avoided any arbitration hearings in his first season as GM. Historically, the Tigers have paid their players slightly more than the estimated salaries below in order to lock their players up before a hearing. While keeping costs down is important, one could argue that keeping their players happy — or, more accurately, avoiding that awkward hearing where you have to tell your player why he doesn’t deserve that slightly higher salary — is well worth the slight uptick in payroll.
All six players are projected by MLB Trade Rumors’ Matt Swartz to receive modest raises compared to their 2016 salaries. Iglesias led this group with a $2.1 million salary last season, and is projected to receive $3.2 million in 2017. Castellanos isn’t far behind, with a $2.8 million projected salary in his first season of arbitration. Justin Wilson will also crack the $2 million mark, at a projected $2.7 million. Romine and Alex Wilson should receive roughly $1.2 million, while Rondon is projected at $900,000.
Other players who have not yet accumulated enough service time to become arbitration eligible will have their contracts renewed at a later date during the offseason. Those players — think James McCann, Michael Fulmer, and others — will make close to the major league minimum salary in 2017.
Then there’s Romine, who made $900,000 last season in his first year of arbitration. The Tigers have hinted that they are looking to cut payroll for 2017 and beyond, but were able to scrounge enough dough together to retain their best utility infielder. While Romine doesn’t offer much offensively, he showed that he is capable of fielding nearly every defensive position. This is a valuable asset for a 162-game season, even if fans will whine that he’s being used too much every time he takes the field.