TigerDoc616's Off Season Plan

OK, the World Series is over and now time for the hot stove league to get into full swing. Predicting how this month and the rest of the off season will go is going to be difficult given the looming lockout on December 2nd if no CBA agreement is reached, which seems a certainty. But I am going to try anyways. The deadline has passed to issue QO’s to players and players have until November 17th to accept or reject those offers. As a reminder, teams have until December 2nd to tender contracts to all arbitration eligible players and until November 19th to add players to the 40 man roster to protect them from the rule 5 draft, if they even have a rule 5 draft this year. After a surprisingly positive season for the Tigers, they are poised to make more of a mark this off season in an effort to turn this team into a contender. And the Tigers started off with a bang. Even before the bubbly was flat in the Atlanta locker room Avila struck and swung a trade for Tucker Barnhardt of the Reds, filling one of our needs. I have been on record that this team will not be a serious contender next year. And by serious I mean for the AL Central title, and a legitimate shot at the World Series. Tigers still have too many young players who need development or have yet to reach the majors. But that does not mean they cannot take steps towards that goal. And .500 or better and an outside shot at a wild card is not out of the question, especially if the playoffs are expanded, something definitely on the table for this winter’s CBA negotiations. So let’s start with what we know:

Guaranteed Contracts for 2022:

Miguel Cabrera, Jonathan Schoop, Robbie Grossman, Tucker Barnhardt.

Injured players who are not likely to contribute in 2022:

Jake Rogers, Spencer Turnbull, Alex Faedo, Matt Boyd.

Guys we have said goodbye to (at least for now):

Jose Urena, Julio Teheran, Wiley Peralta, Derek Holland, Ian Krol, Drew Hutchinson.

The rest of the 40 man roster (for now):

Tyler Alexander, Drew Carlton, Jose Cisnero, Miguel Del Pozo, Jason Foley, Michael Fulmer, Kyle Funkhouser, Rony Garcia, Bryan Garcia, Joe Jimenez, Alex Lange, Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Gregory Soto, Joey Wentz, Dustin Garneau, Grayson Greiner, Eric Haase, Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, Harold Castro, Isaac Parades, Zack Short, Akil Baddoo, Daz Cameron, Derek Hill, Victor Reyes, Jacob Robson, Elvin Rodriguez, Niko Goodrum.

That leaves our 40 man roster at 40. Before we look at our needs, let’s briefly look at the payroll situation. Tigers have only $50M committed for 2022 to four players. If you add in the likely arbitration salaries of the 11 players eligible (using MLBTR’s predictions, $31.9M total) that brings payroll to $81.9M for 15 players. Likely another 8 players are on the roster that are not arbitration eligible. Hard to know exactly what the new league minimum will be until the CBA agreement is worked out but based on last year’s minimum, we can expect around another $5M to sign these 8 players, boosting payroll to $86.9M. That brings the roster to 23 players and allows us to sign 3 players. Not sure if we will sign more than that or not, but seems like the minimum based on the team needs. What we do not know is just how much Chris Ilitch is willing to increase payroll, only that he is willing to spend more to make the team a contender. Tigers ran a payroll of about $81M in 2021.

Another issue is where we sit in regards to lost draft picks if we sign a player who has received and rejected a Qualifying Offer (QO). We did not exceed the CBT threshold and we were a revenue sharing recipient, so we would forfeit our 3rd highest pick, then our 4th highest pick if we signed a second FA who received and rejected a QO. We are in the most favorable group regarding the loss of draft picks. Normally would say the Tigers would only sign one guy receiving a QO, that being a SS, but given the above, don’t be surprised if we sign a second. But do not expect us to give up a pick for a short term rental. So, if Verlander does reject his QO as is expected, it is unlikely he will be coming back to Detroit. Giving him anything more than a one year to prove it deal would be extremely risky.

The other issue affecting the 40 man roster is potentially protecting players from the rule 5 draft. Elvin Rodriguez would have been eligible for that except he could have become a minor league free agent had we not added him. Some other names of note are Logan Shore, Paul Richan, Reese Olson, Garret Hill, Beau Brieske, Nolan Blackwood, Brady Policelli, and Kody Clemens. Tigers will not add all of these guys. My prediction is they will add three, Richan, Olson, and Clemens. Combined with likely 3 free agent signings, 6 guys on this roster will be sent packing. The first two will be pretty easy, Niko Goodrum and Dustin Garneau. Both are arbitration eligible and would result in some payroll savings. After that, well, it will be interesting to see what the Tigers do. And it is always possible the Tigers will not have to worry about this. The rule 5 draft is governed by the CBA and since it expires on December 1st it is possible MLB will not hold the rule 5 draft.

I think most of us have a good idea regarding what the Tigers need. Catching was a need, but that was addressed quickly with the trade for Barnhardt. Obviously a SS, and probably two starting pitchers. Bullpen help always seems to be a question, but Avila has said this year that likely isn’t a priority. Many feel an OF would be helpful and hard to argue that point with the likes of Derek Hill, Daz Cameron, and Victor Reyes fighting for spots alongside of Grossman and Baddoo. But Avila has not even hinted he is looking in this direction. He might if something good drops in his lap but otherwise do not expect he will be actively looking for an OF or bullpen help.

So without further delay, here is who I think the Tigers will sign this off season:

· Trevor Story, SS: 6 years/$135M

· Cory Kluber, P: 1 yr $14M

· Steven Matz P: 2 yr $20M

I know these choices will disappoint some. Still looking at adding $46.5M to the payroll next year, which is pretty close to the $50M most think the Tigers can afford. That would bring payroll to $133.4M, and if they cut Goodrum and Garneau to make room for two of the signings, payroll would come in around $129M. A reasonable payroll and leaves room in the future to add to the team as we get closer to contention.

I would love Carlos Correa, and there are plenty of people who think we will nab him. But I do not see Chris Ilitch opening his wallet and paying a player for the 10 years and $320M that is predicted he will get. I'll believe it when I see it. I am sure we will be involved in his bidding but there will be teams willing to pay him what he wants and I don’t see the Tigers doing that. Honestly, I hope I am wrong on this. Story is a solid SS who can man that position and still be a 4 WAR type player or better for us. He was a 6 WAR player in 2019, a 5.1 WAR Player in 2018 and even racked up 2.5 WAR in a shortened 2020 season. 2021 was a down year but he was dealing with some elbow issues. He still racked up a 3.5 WAR season. He is now reportedly healthy and should be ready to give us at least 4 WAR seasons during our contending window. Plus his signing does keep payroll reasonable and allows us to add talent in the future or extend some of our own. Signing Correa could hamper us even after Cabrera’s contract is gone.

As for pitching, many were hoping for Eduardo Rodriguez from the Red Sox. Would love him, but if he gets even close to the 5years/$70M he is predicted to get that puts him out of our range. We have three really good young starters right now, plus a guy in Spencer Turnbull who will miss a year due to TJ surgery but should be ready to go in 2023. We also have young pitchers like Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo coming off TJ surgeries of their own. And we have also drafted two pretty good pitchers in Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden. They won’t be ready in the next year or two but we also want to have room to add them when they do become ready. So makes sense for us not make a major long term commitment to a starting pitcher this off season. If MLBTR is way off base on the years and money, then sure, maybe if Al could get Rodriguez for 3yrs/$45M I’d do it. But MLBTR is usually pretty good on the years and money predictions. Matz is a solid LHP who has gone 150 IP or more the past 3 full seasons. MLBTR expects him to get 3 years and $27M but I think that is a bit long for him. But I also think we can up the AAV and ink him for 2 years. Cory Kluber was at one time one of the best pitchers in the game. The 2 time Cy Young winner certainly knows how to pitch. He did have somewhat of a bounce back with the Yankees in half a season after having shoulder problems. Thus he does pose somewhat of a risk. But he also is a veteran pitcher who could help our younger pitchers develop. Plus, he knows the AL Central and would likely enjoy the chance to stick it to Cleveland a few times next year.

As far as major signings, that is it. I am sure we will do some minor league signings especially for the rotation and bullpen. But not going to predict that at this point. If the players are locked out for a significant length of time the signing period will be chaos after an agreement is reached. These predictions might just get thrown out the window, so no sense trying to figure out some minor league signings. I know some hope we go really big and get Correa, Rodriguez and yes, even Verlander. But if they get what is predicted, that is $66M to add to our payroll next year, with a long term SS and SP commitment that may very well hamper us down the road in adding talent. Adding Story, Matz, and Kluber will improve this club next year; make us at least a .500 club and a threat to make the playoffs, especially if the playoffs are indeed expanded. It gives us our SS through our contending window and it also gives us the flexibility to address future needs without hampering us

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.