By: Holly Horning
Last year, we were besieged with media reports speculating on whether our star pitcher was going to stay with the Tigers. A former Cy Young Award winner at the top of his game who surely would command big bucks. Thank goodness that is over and we can get back to watching the game without that distraction.
Oops, my bad. Or as Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Fast forward to 2015 and things haven’t changed. We have another star pitcher and Cy Young winner whose contract expires after this year. Once again, the media wolfhounds are pressing their stories of intrigue and angst. And once again, fans hope the star pitcher will stay.
But he won’t. Sorry folks, there are just too many reasons that support both sides parting ways by the end of the year. Let’s explore just a few of the supporting issues:
CURRENT MARKET VALUE – The dollar range was set this winter establishing the minimum and maximum dollars for a quality pitcher. Jon Lester set the minimum salary at $150 million while Max signed for $210 million. Price is conceivably the better pitcher (and a highly prized rare lefty) and depending upon which pitchers are available next winter, he could earn in the neighborhood of Scherzer. Expect Price to earn something at least in the $180+ million range.
FREE AGENT MARKET – Next winter’s free agent market for pitchers is considered by all to be of epic proportions in terms of numbers and talent. Currently, there are close to 40 pitchers who are eligible and a significant number of them who are young and talented. Expect Dave Dombrowski to work his magic at getting a solid up-and-coming youngster, or two, for a fraction of the Price. Pun and capitalization intended.
AGEING PITCHERS – If David Price stays with the team, the Tigers will have a minimum of 3 of their 5 starting pitchers over the age of 30. JV will be 39 or 40 at contract’s end, while Anibal will be 38 – 39. Price at age 29 (and 30 later this season) will expect a minimum 6 year contract to take him to at least 36 years old. This year, the Tiger rank #3 in possessing the oldest pitching staff at an average of almost 31 years old. Most teams (24) have an average starter age in the mid-late 20’s.
PITCHING PIPELINE – The Tigers currently have a handful of promising young pitchers, like Lobstein, in AAA who have also experience the Big Show. Expect Dave to keep a close eye on them this year with hope that they prove themselves as starters for next year. It was often thought that acquiring Price last year was a strategy for replacing Scherzer but also buying one more year for the youngsters to develop. Young and under contract for years is the way to go, especially when you have a humongous payroll. Which brings us to…
PAYROLL COMMITMENTS – Nothing needs to be said about the Tigers having one of baseball’s biggest payrolls. But given potentially another $180 million for JV and $235+ million (including incentives and options) for Miggy, the Tigers have hit their quota of mega salaries, according to top sports economists. And half of their payroll is tied up in just 5 players. Taking on Price will severely mortgage the long-term future of this team.
Even though Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, and the Tigers have initiated contract talks, they do not yet involve the exchange of numbers. Each side is feeling each other out and this will be a slow process. McKinnis will perform due diligence and ascertain a top market value for his client. And the Tigers will want to see how all their major and minor league starters perform over the coming months.
Both sides will keep the door open and see where this year takes them. Nothing’s going to happen anytime soon so it’s best that we all sit back and enjoy the show. That is, the one taking place on the field.