Ever since the late Mike Ilitch passed away, questions have surrounded his family and the future of the Detroit Tigers. Will the Ilitch family sell the team, or will principle owner Chris Ilitch keep the franchise in house? We have previously heard numerous reports in either direction, along with assurance from the Ilitch family that the team is not for sale.
According to Lynn Henning, formerly of the Detroit News, that assurance comes with a big “for now” sign.
Most trusted information from those who would know is consistent: Tigers will remain an Ilitch property, but only with certainty as long as Marian Ilitch is still with us. Afterward, it is believed they will be sold. There are multiple suitors. There have been overtures.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) September 11, 2019
Given the prices other sports franchises have sold for recently — not to mention the enormous profits teams are raking in — it comes as no surprise that there are several parties interested in the Tigers, one of the league’s oldest and most storied franchises. The Kansas City Royals recently sold for a cool $1 billion, and the Tigers would likely eclipse that mark (Forbes recently valued them at $1.25 billion). Detroit businessman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert previously said he wasn’t trying to buy the team, but his name comes up most frequently when a sale of the team is mentioned.
What does this mean for the team in the short term, though? While some have equated the Tigers’ declining payroll with a potential sale, shedding their big money contracts was also a necessary evil for the team to begin their next build. Refusing to spend big on a team that was projected to finish in last place in 2019 was an understandable, if frustrating, offseason plan.
Moving forward... I don’t know? The Tigers probably won’t shell out money like they did under Mike Ilitch’s watch, but that also doesn’t specifically hint at a pending sale. The game has been trending younger for a number of years now, and free agent contracts are a riskier proposition each and every season.
One thing seems all but certain, however; the Tigers don’t appear to be in any danger of moving out of Detroit. This is a passionate fanbase that shows up in droves when the team is even remotely competitive, resulting in a lucrative TV market that plays above its weight. They aren’t the Yankees, but the Tigers have the ability to significantly out-spend their division rivals in any given year. Additionally, any potential move would require approval of 75 percent of the league’s owners. In short: that’s not happening.