by: Holly Horning
(Kurt remains on the bereavement list but will return tomorrow. Our joint column, One Topic – Two Takes, will be back next week. Same day, same bloggers, same level of excitement. In the meantime…..)
With the trade season nearly upon us, we’ll start to get the first hints of which Tigers may be staying and which may be leaving. Players either traded or acquired by the Tigers this summer will give us a clue as to how Dave Dombrowski may handle the nine Tigers currently expected to file for free agency in November.
Using payroll dollars, anticipated needs, stats – and even agent information – here are my thoughts on each of them. We’ll revisit the results at the end of the year when I hope to be able to hold my head high.
- DAVE DOMBROWSKI – Yes, renewing Dave is the key to all of the players on this list. Three years ago, Mr. I extended his contract in early August but don’t be surprised if he waits later this time around. Mr. I just may want to see where the team is heading first. But consider that if Dave’s contract is not renewed, it means that essentially the entire Front Office will be replaced by the new incoming GM. Not sure if Mr. I is willing to go through all of that. But if Dave manages a big trade in July, it is a clue that he’ll be staying. Usually, GMs on their way out have their trade power taken away in early summer. I expect his contract will be renewed with some possible personnel changes under him.
- ALEX AVILA – The Tigers will not want to give Alex a qualifying offer expected to be over $16 million this year. But lack of an offer means the Tigers will not receive a draft pick. Rather than allowing him to walk away with no compensation, the Tigers have two options. If he returns to the lineup and stays healthy, they will try to trade him to a contender in need. Good defensive catchers are in short supply. While he may end up walking in November, there is a remote possibility he re-signs with the Tigers for a lesser amount. But I expect with the rise of McCann, he’ll be gone.
- YOENIS CESPEDES – Yoenis hired Rock Nation Sports, Jay Z’s company and Cano’s agent, specifically for their ability to get record-setting contracts. But most telling is the clause he had inserted into his contract that prevents teams from losing draft picks by signing him. This was done to attract the most teams and create a bidding war. He won’t return unless Collins and Moya bomb in Toledo and the Tigers lose a significant bat.
- JOBA CHAMBERLAIN – He was signed at the eleventh hour this year and expect his chances of returning to be slim to none next year. Opposing batters are hitting .319 off him and he’s putting 1.5 runners on base for every inning he pitches.
- TOM GORZELANNY – Tom was a meant to be short-term with his minimal one-year contract. With his nearly 7.0 ERA (before Wednesday’s game) and ability to put almost 2 runners on base for every inning he pitches, he won’t be back.
- RAJAI DAVIS – What’s not to love about Rajai? He has the energy to kick-start this team, has a very good slash line, is one of the AL’s stolen base leaders, has a strong CF glove and the Tigers win the majority of games he starts. The only negative is his age but expect him to be back because he’s a complete ballplayer who just happens to have a reasonable salary.
- JOE NATHAN – Believe it or not, Joe’s got an option for next year so the Tigers will have to pay a $1 million buyout whether he pitches or not. I don’t expect them to be serious in bringing him back, however they just might want to take a quick peak for a hot second in spring training. Otherwise, color him gone.
- DAVID PRICE – As a leftie and a pitcher who works deep into games, his value automatically goes up. Expect him to receive at least a 6 – 7 year contract over $200 million. Sports economists say that teams cannot afford more than two huge multi-year contracts – and the Tigers already have theirs. JV and Miggy account for 33% of the Tigers’ entire payroll and that figure will go up as their salaries do. Adding Price would push three players salaries to 50% of payroll – and two of those players are only used every fifth day. Price, btw, does not have a good post-season record. As much as we’d like him to stay, he’ll leave and the Tigers will hit the pitching free agent market which is expected to be the best in many years.
- JOAKIM SORIA – It seemed like a slam-dunk that the Tigers would renew his contract, however recent performances may have the Tigers waiting to see where the dust settles at the end of the year. He’s currently making $7 million/year which is starting to get pricey for relievers. The Tigers don’t want to make another expensive multi-year mistake as they did with Nathan so expect them to wait until November. They’ll want to see where Angel and Rondon are in the process first. This one is too close to call.
- ALFREDO SIMON – Expect the Tigers to re-sign Alfredo. It’s been a good year for him and the Tigers can certainly use a guy who is described as unflappable. A very reasonable salary of $5.5 for a starter. Ideal flexibility for either the rotation or BP if he starts to tire mid-season.
The next five weeks should be filled with excitement and intrigue. Let’s hope the Tigers will be active as buyers in the trade market.