By: Holly Horning
These are insane times for us Tiger fans. Gone are the days when we heard the yearly proclamation that the team was “all in.” Gone are the days when we knew a big name would be signed every year. Now we’ve all become Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out which direction the team is taking.
Are they contenders, tweakers or rebuilders? Are they a team that is tearing it all down or merely refining the way they play? Are they shedding some excess payroll or having a fire sale?
Who knows right now. We could be left hanging for another 5 weeks – maybe more before we know where the team is headed. Even then, don’t expect those who run the team to tell you their strategy. Some of it, they don’t want you to know. And the strategy and spin may well change over the coming months depending upon how successful they are in trading some high-priced talent.
But eventually, the organization is going to start handing out clues. And like a GPS system, each clue will take us down the road a little further until we finally figure out where the organization is headed.
Right now, we’ve got no answers. We have no map. And we’ve ventured into unchartered territory. But we’ve got a series of questions that can function as a flow chart once the Tigers start to reveal their hand. Here are the issues to consider…..
Who exactly is in the ownership seat and making the decisions? Mike or Chris Ilitch?
Is the person in charge looking to retool or prepare for a sale?
Are the Tigers waiting on the new CBA agreement to either eliminate or raise the luxury tax ceiling?
Is this merely a payroll reduction to align the team with average mid-market figures?
– Or is this an attempt to finally push revenue to exceed payroll?
– Could this be an attempt to get the books in order for a possible sale?
Does Al Avila have an order from ownership to pare or has he been given a specific financial ceiling?
How much does the significant cost overrun of the new Red Wings arena impact how much money is available to the Tigers?
Are the soaring profits being made by the casinos part of a focused business expansion that would require selling the team in order to comply with baseball’s rules about gambling?
Are the Tigers looking to avoid the mess that the Phillies experienced with ageing players tied to huge contracts?
Will management place trades as a priority over attendance?
How many players will actually be traded?
– Will the roster be merely tweaked or will more than a handful of players leave the team?
Which players will be traded?
– How important are these players to the team?
– Will they be the franchise faces, important cogs in the roster, secondary players or ones close to free agency?
Will the team be able to shed some of the contracts of players who didn’t perform well last year?
Will the Tigers start acquiring players with more speed and better defense?
Have the Tigers finally realized that their old formula for winning needs to be changed?
Is the ascension of a new GM responsible for a change in direction?
– Or is the changed due to a new ownership voice?
Are the additions of an analytics department, the Caesar software program and a players’ manual the catalysts for a change in direction?
How much influence does the Analytics Department now have about the best formula re winning?
Does the team finally have a sense of urgency about winning while they still have their franchise faces performing well and a young, controllable core of promising pitchers?
Some of these questions may never be answered but some may reveal themselves within the next couple of weeks. And with each answer, we’ll get a better sense of where this team is headed – for 2017 and even beyond.