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Tigers’ payroll projected under $90 million entering the offseason

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The Tigers’ payroll is currently at its lowest level since 2006.

MLB: MAY 16 Twins at Tigers Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers’ payroll will be just under $90 million for the 25-man roster entering the 2019-2020 offseason. That figure takes into account two guaranteed contracts for Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann, plus estimates for nine arbitration-eligible players due for salary increases, plus 17 players who will earn near the major league minimum salary and one final installment of $6 million paid to the Texas Rangers for the final season of Prince Fielder’s contract.

That projected figure includes some $38 million coming off the Tigers’ payroll due to trades and expiring contracts. It does not include any players to be acquired during the offseason, nor any players who are arbitration eligible being non-tendered or released.

As of the end of the 2019 season, Cabrera and Zimmermann are the only two players on the roster with guaranteed contracts for 2020, and the only two players who have more than five years of major league experience. The two will combine for $55 million in salary for the 2020 season, with Zimmermann’s $25 million coming off the books after next year. The Tigers currently have no other players due for free agency after the 2020 season.

Detroit Tigers 2020 Payroll Obligations

Player Pos. 2019 2020
Player Pos. 2019 2020
Miguel Cabrera 1B $30,000,000 $30,000,000
Jordan Zimmermann RHP $25,000,000 $25,000,000
Michael Fulmer* RHP $2,800,000 $2,800,000
Matthew Boyd* LHP $2,600,000 $6,400,000
Blaine Hardy* LHP $1,300,000 $1,800,000
Daniel Norris* LHP $1,275,000 $2,300,000
Niko Goodrum 1B/OF $670,500 $675,000
Buck Farmer* RHP $570,800 $1,100,000
Joe Jimenez RHP $569,200 $565,000
Drew VerHagen* RHP $567,400 $900,000
John Hicks* C $567,100 $1,700,000
JaCoby Jones* CF $567,100 $1,400,000
Daniel Stumpf LHP $566,600 $800,000
Jeimer Candelario 3B $555,100 $565,000
Grayson Greiner C $558,600 $565,000
Christin Stewart LF $556,400 $565,000
Spencer Turnbull RHP $556,100 $565,000
Dawel Lugo 3B - $565,000
Gregory Soto LHP - $565,000
Willi Castro SS - $565,000
Brandon Dixon IF - $565,000
Jake Rogers C - $565,000
Victor Reyes OF - $565,000
Travis Demeritte OF - $565,000
Prince Fielder** 1B $6,000,000 $6,000,000
Total - $75,279,900 $87,655,000

*Player is eligible for arbitration; salary listed is the projected salary calculated by Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors.

**The Tigers owe one final payment to the Texas Rangers for the final year of Prince Fielder’s contract.

The nine players eligible for arbitration are projected to earn salaries totaling $19.8 million, which represents a total increase of $8.7 million over their respective 2019 paychecks. Some of them may be let go before spring, but they are included in the payroll for now. Niko Goodrum is figured at $675,000, a modest boost from his 2019 salary, and the other 16 pre-arbitration eligible players are calculated at $565,000, which is about the average that the Tigers paid to players in that category in 2019.

The club added $16.2 million in one-year free agent contracts for the 2019 season, all of which are due to expire. Coming off the books are free agents Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and Gordon Beckham, plus Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene, who were traded in July. The Tigers also will no longer be on the hook for an $8 million payment to Justin Verlander, who has a new two-year contract with the Houston Astros starting next season. Edwin Jackson and a few other veterans will be free agents, but the Tigers are paying them a prorated share of the minimum salary, which will be paid to their roster replacements.

Departing Players

Player Pos. 2019 2020
Player Pos. 2019 2020
Nicholas Castellanos OF $9,950,000 Traded
Tyson Ross RHP $5,750,000 Free Agent
Jordy Mercer SS $5,250,000 Free Agent
Shane Greene RHP $4,000,000 Traded
Matt Moore LHP $2,500,000 Free Agent
Josh Harrison 2B $2,000,000 Free Agent
Justin Verlander* RHP $8,000,000 New Contract
Gordon Beckham 2B $700,000 Free Agent
Mahtook, Mikie CF $574,500 Free Agent (MiLB)
Total - $38,724,500 -

The payroll figure is down from the $115.8 million that was reported by Cot’s Contracts as of Opening Day 2019. As it stands, the sub-$90 million figure would be the lowest that the club has seen since the 2006 season. According to estimates, only three Tigers will be earning over $3 million for the 2020 season.

While the Tigers are not expected to make a big splash in free agency during the offseason, they will likely add some veteran players at a cost to be determined. This could be the third consecutive offseason that payroll has been reduced since topping out at over $200 million in Al Avila’s first two full seasons as general manager of the club in 2016 and 2017.