Last offseason, many fans understood why the Detroit Tigers were not willing to dip into the free agent market with abandon. The team was coming off a last place finish, and had just traded away several of their top players for prospects. The team was fully entering a rebuild that started on [insert your preferred date here], and the next couple seasons were going to be painful.
This offseason, fans (ourselves included) have been a bit more impatient. However, no amount of free agent dollars would turn this club into a contender in 2019; outside of signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, any signings this winter may not be around when the Tigers are ready to contend again.
Unfortunately, the 2020 timeline that some of us hoped would be the turning point of the rebuild may not be accurate. MLive’s Evan Woodberry read between the lines provided by general manager Al Avila, and deciphered that the Tigers might not be ready to spend until we enter the 2021 season.
The Tigers owe about $20 million to other clubs as compensation as part of the Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder trades. After 2020, all those payments are off the books.
In fact, after the 2020, the Tigers will have just one guaranteed contract remaining: Miguel Cabrera, who will be owed $30 million in 2021, and $32 million in 2022 and 2023.
Jordan Zimmermann, Miguel Cabrera, and the money owed for Verlander and Fielder amounts to $69 million in 2019, and $61 million in 2020 after Verlander hits free agency. That figure drops to just $30 million for Cabrera, as Woodberry notes, giving the Tigers a lot more money to spend under their new budget.
However, that new budget is the multi-million dollar question. MLB revenues hit yet another record-high in 2018, yet the Tigers referred to their $110 million payroll as a “burden” earlier this winter. How much will owner Chris Ilitch spend on the team once their crop of prospects starts to hit the majors? Will the Tigers be players for the big fish on the free agent market as they used to be? Or will they continue to operate on a shoestring budget, hoping to hit the prospect lottery and build a contender almost entirely out of homegrown players?
(If it changes your mind, Chris, remember that Mike Trout is a free agent after the 2020 season.)
Remember Josh Wilson? Yeah, he’s back
Before you get angry, no, Wilson will not be batting with the bases loaded in a high-leverage situation. Wilson was part of a batch of new hires and promotions the organization announced on Monday. He will be one of three new major league scouts, while three others join the club as area scouts.
Of particular interest to us at BYB are the promotions in the analytics department. Former Bless You Boys writer Danny Vargovick is one of four individuals promoted to Senior Analyst, along with Drew Jordan, Maggie O’Hara, and Shane Piesik.
You had one job, MLB
The Chicago White Sox signed reliever Kelvin Herrera on Monday, guaranteeing that the 29-year-old Dominican would have 19 chances to torment the Tigers in both 2019 and 2020. Herrera’s contract guarantees him $18 million over the two years, and also has a vesting option for 2021.
You know, in case you weren’t already sick of watching him blow through the heart of the Tigers’ lineup.
An update on Fox Sports Detroit announcer Matt Shepard
Unfortunately, the Shepard family was involved in a serious car accident over the weekend. While Matt and his son Chad are OK, Matt’s wife underwent spinal surgery on Sunday morning.
just because so many have asked me & @UMShep, my wife had successful spine surgery this morning. More to come & a long recovery, but we're fortunate. Truly blessed to have so many people send their prayers & support us all. Forever grateful. Can't thank you enough— Matt Shepard (@ShepMatt) January 6, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shepard family as they recover from the accident.
Around the horn
If you don’t already know about Jose Alvarado, you definitely should. The Indians acquired catcher Kevin Plawecki to replace Yan Gomes. Baseball Prospectus will be expanding their Korean Baseball Organization coverage in 2019. CC Sabathia has been cleared to resume baseball activities after offseason heart surgery. It is not a good winter to be a second baseman.