The Detroit Tigers head into the 2020-2021 off season with just one player on a guaranteed contract for the next season. That contract belongs to Miguel Cabrera, who will earn $30 million for the year. After subtracting for free agents and adjusting for arbitration eligible players, Detroit’s opening day payroll figures to drop from just over $107 million (non prorated) in 2020 to about $68 million in 2021. That’s before any new free agent contracts are signed, or players are non tendered or traded.
Free Agents: The club will shed almost $45 million from the 2020 opening day payroll due to expiring contracts for free agents. These include Jordan Zimmermann, CJ Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Austin Romine, and Ivan Nova, plus the already departed Jordy Mercer and Cameron Maybin. They have also paid off the last $6 million installment to the Texas Rangers for Prince Fielder, bringing the payroll savings to $51 million.
The World Series is scheduled to start on October 20 and conclude no later than October 28, 2020.
The day after the conclusion of the World Series: All players with at least six years of service time who are not under contract for the 2021 season will become free agents. Minor league players with six years of service will become minor league free agents if not added to a 40-man roster.
For five days following the World Series, or November 1st at the latest, there is a “quiet period” when clubs can talk to free agents, but may not sign free agents from other clubs until the quiet period has expired.
Teams have five days after the World Series to exercise any club options for the next season, or to make a qualifying offer of over $18 million for the 2021 season to their own potential free agents if the team is going to receive any compensation should those players sign with another team. Players have an additional 10 days to accept or decline qualifying offers. The Tigers will not be making any such offers, and have no options to exercise.
November 20 is the date that clubs must add players to their 40 man rosters to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, if they’re eligible. This year’s rule 5 class includes players drafted out of college in 2017 or out of high school in 2016. Matt Manning and Alex Faedo head the Tigers list of Rule 5 eligible players who need to be protected. The Rule 5 draft is held on the last day of the winter meetings.
The club may remove some players from the 40 man roster at this time who don’t figure into the long term plans, or who are not progressing as the team had hoped. Players can be designated for assignment and, if they clear waivers, they can be outrighted off the 40 man roster and reassigned to a minor league club, provided that they have not been previously outrighted, and they have not used up their six years of minor league service time.
The Tigers have a number of these AAAA type players including Harold Castro, Dario Agrazal, Grayson Greiner, Brandon Dixon, and probably half a dozen more. These moves are typically not made until the roster spot is needed either to protect a player from the Rule 5 draft or to sign a free agent.
December 2 is the date that teams must tender contracts to players who are eligible for arbitration. The Tigers have ten players eligible for arbitration on the Tigers’ roster:
Matthew Boyd- $5.3 million- third of four years eligible
Daniel Norris- $2,962,500- third and final season eligible
Michael Fulmer- $2,800,000- third of four seasons eligible
JaCoby Jones- $1,575,000- second of four seasons eligible
Buck Farmer- $1,150,000- second of three seasons eligible
Joe Jimenez- first time eligible
Niko Goodrum- first time eligible
Jeimer Candelario- first time eligible
Victor Reyes- first time eligible
Jose Cisnero- first time eligible
None of these players is in line to receive an unreasonable salary through arbitration in 2021, so any players being non tendered are due to the club not seeing them as long term pieces of the puzzle, or just to save money. We will provide further analysis of these players as the deadline approaches.
The Baseball Winter Meetings will take place Dec. 6-10, 2020 in Dallas, Texas, at the Omni Dallas Hotel. The rule 5 draft will be held on December 10. There were conversations in August about canceling the winter meetings this year due to Covid-19, but nothing has been announced.
2021 transaction dates
January 8, 2021; Salary arbitration filing date
January 11, 2021; Exchange of salary arbitration figures between MLB Labor Relations Department and MLB Players Association
January 25 – February 12, 2021 : Salary arbitration hearings
January 15, 2021 — International amateur signing period opens. Postponed from July 2, 2020.
February 17 — Voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players
April 1 — Opening day, active rosters reduced to 26 players
Tigers’ General Manager Al Avila has already begun spinning the narrative about the pandemic causing a loss of revenue, and causing uncertainty in the club’s spending plans. In reality, the Tigers did not lose money in 2020, and there is plenty of room for them to increase payroll in 2021 and still turn a profit. Revenues from television contracts are simply much greater than player costs and other expenses with their current payroll.
The club has been sorting through the pile of prospects, finally calling up some of their prized players to the major leagues, in search of the few players who will stick in the major leagues and contribute to the next contender in Detroit. Whether 2021 will be another season of more of the same, or whether they make a sincere effort to field a winning team will depend on whether they spend to bring in bona fide major league players this winter.