Detroit Tigers General Manager, Al Avila, just wrapped up his end of season press conference and it was a disaster.
Not in what occurred, but in the message that was relayed to the press.
The overall theme of this press conference: The Tigers are slashing payroll & will not be spending money on free agents as long as Chris Illitch is in charge of the organization.
This news comes after picking up the option on Manager Brad Ausmus’ contract & possessing a roster that appears to only need some tweaking to be competitive in 2017 and possibly making a World Series run.
Rumors have been swirling that with Chris Illitch in charge, instead of his father, Mike, that a payroll slash would happen quickly. It appears now that 2016 was the “one last shot” at a World Series for Mike Illitch & reworking the bullpen this winter to make a run at a title in 2017 will not happen.
The Tigers payroll for 2017 currently sits at about $190 million with arbitration & options added in. Although no payroll number was stated by Avila at the press conference, the Tigers most likely will be operating around $150 million in 2017 with further cuts in 2018 if Chris Illitch still owns the team.
The most likely candidates to be moved are the more valuable with fewer years remaining, such as:
Ian Kinsler (1 year + 1 option year)
JD Martinez (1 year)
Francisco Rodriguez (option for 2017)
Cameron Maybin (option for 2017)
Justin Upton (player opt out optoin after 2017)
While it seems far fetched, but if all five are moved, the Tigers would move about $45 million in obligations right there and if those were the only moves, would be able to get a nice return for each player that could help rather quickly.
However, with the resurrection to Justin Verlander’s career over the past 18 months, there is a real cause for concern if you were hoping that he would stay a Tiger for life & enter the Baseball Hall of Fame having only ever played in the Old English D.
Verlander and his contract looked like dead weight at the end of 2014 & start of 2015, with injuries finally starting to take a toll on the hard throwing pitcher. But, something happened around the All Star Break of 2015: he became dominant again.
Justin Verlander, despite a typical slow April, pitched his way back into the Cy Young Award conversation in 2016 and with a contract that runs for just 3 more seasons & an arm that looks no worse for wear, he could be the biggest piece moved this winter.
The Los Angeles Dodgers & New York Yankees have big budgets & openings in the rotation & love to fill those openings with big names like Verlander’s. What they also have is incredibly deep farm systems that they could easily use to lure Avila into trading the Tigers star pitcher to either city.
[EDIT 10/19/16: It should be noted that Verlander has “10&5 Rights” which means that any player that has 10+ years of MLB service time & 5+ years on his current team, like Verlander does, has earned no trade rights. So, Verlander would need to approve any trade. I was reminded of this on Tigers Reddit: reddit.com/r/motorcitycities ]
If Avila’s goal is to win a World Series & had been handed a goal of cutting payroll, the most logical option for him would be to trade all 5 of these players, restock the farm system with as much talent as possible and start working to make sure that talent reaches its potential.
Because if Chris Illitch continues to own the Tigers, Avila will not be able to go out and sign big name free agents like his predecessor was able to do. Avila will have to utilize the newly formed Analytics division in the organization & get the most production possible from young players on team friendly contracts.