Baseball once again avoided any sort of work stoppage by agreeing to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on November 30th, a few hours before the deadline.
What this means, immediately for the Tigers, is that the Winter Meetings that are scheduled for the first week of December are back on, where the Tigers are rumored to be doing a lot of business, “getting younger & cheaper” as GM Al Avila mentioned at his end of year press conference.
However, there is one interesting thing to note in the new CBA, the Luxury Tax Threshold, that the Tigers went over last year with a payroll of $198 million, will be set at $195 million in 2017, a rise of just about $6 million.
If the current roster were to stay the same & the arbitration projections from MLBTradeRumors.com are correct (as they usually are) then the Tigers would be right at the $195 million mark. This means that the Tigers, with a little bit of work, could still contend in 2017 with out having to overhaul the roster & would still have a shot at that elusive World Series title.
What this means, is a few moves could open the door for a signing or two, to solidify the bullpen & still save the team from paying the Luxury Tax.
First, the dead weight: Trade Anibal Sanchez & Mike Pelfrey for anything & try to pay as little as possible.
If the Tigers retain 50% of the salary of both players & accept almost nothing in return, the Tigers rotation would still be: Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd with Shane Greene and a few others looking to be the next man up.
That would mean saving $9 million & $4 million for each pitcher, lowering the overall payroll to $182 million & being flexible on signing a few veteran bullpen arms to help out the incredibly affordable Francisco Rodriguez, Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson, Bruce Rondon & maybe Mark Lowe (ugh).
Some names on the market the Tigers could go after for $5-7 million per year are Travis Wood from the Cubs, Greg Holland from the Royals (he is coming off of Tommy John surgery in Oct 2015) or a reunion with Neftali Feliz who had a bounce back 2016.
There are even more veterans available that could be had for less, that could still provide an upgrade over 2016, like Brad Ziegler, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, giving the Tigers some flexibility & negotiating power.
Just like the rebuild was speculation, based on some comments & rumors, this is pure speculation as well. No one knows the inner workings of the Tigers Ownership & Front Office right now, if Chris Illitch is pulling the strings & mandating payroll be slashed or if it was only a directive to get below the Luxury Tax threshold.
If the plan was to slash payroll, then the complete tear down is still the way to go, but if it was just to avoid a large bill from MLB for having a bloated payroll, then the new CBA may have helped the Tigers & their World Series chances more than any other team initially.