By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Who wouldn’t want to be the Tigers’ GM for a day? Who wouldn’t want the Tigers dropped in their lap giving you the opportunity to sell what they have to offer?
This is still a good baseball team. It just has some holes. We know where they are, but it’s a science to determine the right players to fill them.
This week a reader has challenged us to play GM. And you know what? It’s all we have ever wanted…
From a reader – Tom:
“You are the GM of the Tigers and your team has finished last in the Central in 2015. What do you tell free agents or their representatives why they should come to Detroit in 2016?”
The fact the Tigers finished last in the division in 2015 has no bearing on their ability to draw stars to Detroit.
Free agents know what the Tigers have to offer. It’s a great baseball town that supports their team by filling the park just about every game. They have an owner who is starving for a championship and has shown he will spend and spend big to get there.
The Tigers have plenty of star power led by the best hitter in baseball in Miguel Cabrera. Miggy’s resume includes an MVP, a Triple Crown and multiple batting titles. They found a diamond in the rough in acquiring JD Martinez who appears to me more than capable of helping to carry this team back to the playoffs.
Justin Verlander appears ready to lead this rotation again. His resume also includes an MVP, a Cy Young and multiple no hitters.
The Tigers suffered from injuries and depth in their lineup, starting rotation and their bullpen. And when they waved the white flag, they surrendered any talent they had.
Dave Dombrowski let the bullpen sit at the bottom of the priority list every season it seemed when they left spring training. But, Al Avila has made it clear that strengthening the bullpen is a priority and it’s a known fact throughout the league that the bullpen has helped to hold the Tigers back from bigger and better things throughout the years.
The Tigers are far from a tough sell for free agents. Pitchers especially, know that bulking up this staff could make the difference. Hitters know they will get to hit in a lineup led by one of baseball’s greats.
This is not a tough sell for free agents. In fact, it’s a quite desirable destination. With a little bit of luck, things can come together rather quickly with the right mix of players.
If I am GM, I sell the fact that this team has the ability to win a title within the next two seasons. You need only look at the core of talent already in place.
Despite the last place finish, the Tigers’ image is tarnished somewhat but nothing like the early 2000’s when players wouldn’t come here. Back then, they had to overpay for Pudge to don the Old English D. The Tigers won’t have to dramatically overpay again, however if they need the pitching, they’ll have to outbid everyone else.
The bottom line for 99.95% of all players is the salary. Offer the right amount, and they will come. But the sales pitch is the chance to include “value added” aspects which can help potential free agents trim down the list and give the Tigers an edge if there are two similar contract offers.
I would start with describing an ideal place with a generous, stable owner who is driven to earn that World Series ring. And a stadium that is always packed with the world’s best fans because players do appreciate a good audience.
If the free agent is a pitcher, there are advantages, including Comerica’s reputation as a pitcher’s ballpark. And the addition of Rich Dubee as pitching coach appears promising from his background and also his dynamite interview. I’d have him talk to the pitcher, too.
If the players in question are Hispanic, then the Tigers have a real advantage. A GM and first base coach who are Latino and a team with one of the best programs in MLB supporting Spanish-speaking players.
In the past, the Tigers have been successful having a current player or two call the potential teammate – a strategy I’d continue.
But for all potential free agents, I’d talk about the solid core of players – McCann, Ian, Iggy, JD, JV, VMart, Norris – and oh, that guy who is the best hitter in baseball. Who wouldn’t want to play with him?
I’d emphasize the Tigers are getting more youthful and expected to be in the mix this year and beyond. I’d also point to all those division flags flying from the last 4 out of 5 years and the years of October baseball since 2006 while also talking up this year’s injuries as a primary factor in the team’s drop.
And the final strategy to get them to considering signing? Giving them a case of Sanders Milk Chocolate Hot Fudge Topping and telling them there’s more where that came from…..