ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

So maybe this is going to take longer than we think. Maybe Al Avila’s plan to shed payroll is a longer and more complicated process than we realized. And maybe it will mean the Tigers prospects for success in 2017 may be entirely different.

Our writers’ answers to the following question have not been shared with each other until today. And the reason, as always, is so the readers have the best shot at getting different perspectives on the same topic.


Does Al Avila’s latest news move the Tigers from competitive to contenders in ’17?


HOLLY

Whether this “latest news” is actually new or even “news” is really the question. It’s more about the message being corrected and manipulated than it is of a reassessment of the team’s ability.

If anything, the Tigers have taken a step backwards for 2017. The players are each a year older, Cameron Maybin – the sparkplug – is gone and there is no one even close to filling the CF position. We are also hearing about lingering issues to 2 pitchers with Zimmermann still experiencing pain in his neck, receiving multiple shots to help alleviate it and not even ready for months of physical therapy. And Shane Greene reports that he still is feeling some numbness in his fingers when he throws.

So, no, going forward, this team as it is constituted now, is weaker and less predictable than it was in 2016. They are a good team but not good enough. However, this could change as the hot stove season takes shape and more signings take place.

But if we return to Avila’s statements, it’s really more about jump-starting two things: trades and ticket sales.

Whether or not he meant to indicate the Tigers were tearing down, much of the public understood it as such and that’s where the problem starts. Many teams assumed a “sell-off” and therefore expected some great deals on Tiger players. They ended up sorely disappointed when Avila didn’t back down from a substantial asking price and then the phones stopped ringing.

This was followed by Avila’s clarification about the Tigers being fine not trading anyone and going forward with their core group. It was an attempt to reset the level of expectations in hopes that more teams will become desperate as time and options dwindle – and find that certain Tigers would fit their needs.

But this is also the crucial month of ticket sales – especially season tickets. And the timing was perfect. One day after Avila’s clarification, the Tigers started a push for TigerFest tickets and ticket packages as holiday gifts, which have been rumored to be lagging.

But did you also notice how the local newspapers stopped using “Ilitch family members” and started using “Mr. I” again? A one-two punch to help alleviate fans’ concerns about the team’s chances and to show stability within ownership. A coincidence? I think not.


KURT

We are going to have to follow this process one day at a time. The ultimate goal for this team is to reduce payroll. But the smart thing is to get as much value as possible in return for some of their biggest stars. So it looks like what the Tigers are finding is that what they desire is not necessarily what teams are willing to give up. But that’s not a bad thing.

Those same teams will listen more intently if they are challenging for a playoff spot, which will be at the trade deadline. The Tigers are in a strangely unique position. They are a team with a ton of talent that just hasn’t translated into a championship.

We are all desperately looking for signs of which way the Tigers will take this team this year. But please, don’t listen with any kind of seriousness to the fraudulent messages of sports talk radio.

One talk show host was so incensed with the Tigers missing out on Adam Eaton that he accused them of not having a plan. It was his opinion that the Nationals had given up nothing for Eaton; exposing ignorance before knowing the full truth.

What the White Sox got was another handful of top shelf prospects, something the Tigers could not and would not give up. So Adam Eaton isn’t a Tiger because they are holding onto prospects now, not giving them away. A plan they have communicated more than once.

So the bottom line is they are valuing their team, at every level and I believe that to be a good thing. And as long as they still have the core of this team while they look to make changes, they will always have a shot to contend.

I tell my wife all the time – if you shop, you will buy. If you don’t shop, then you won’t buy. So, anything is a possibility from now until spring training. And if all stays the same with the Tiger core when the season starts, yes, they are a contender, maybe all the way through July.

16 thoughts on “ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

  1. Kurt -“The ultimate goal for this team is to reduce payroll”? I doubt that’s the ultimate goal. Wouldn’t reducing payroll be a means to some other goal? I’d sure hope so. Whatever that goal might actually be. Just saying.

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  2. I really think Holly nailed it– It’s all about marketing. But I am not confident that “Oh, we’re ok after all” will exactly ring the phone of the hooks in the Tigers’ ticket sales department.

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  3. Sounds like cooler heads are prevailing. Yes, this team, like all teams, has issues that needs to be addressed, but it is a very competitive team. Make some adjustments where necessary, but you are not going to turn this team intot the Cubs in one off season.

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  4. With the fire sale occurring in Chicago, KC getting weaker, and the Twins being irrelevant, it looks like the Tigers will be fine in the Central if they can just figure out the Indians. Once they get into the post season anything is possible. The Tigers have their issues but Cleveland does as well. I certainly hope they stick with what they got at least until the trade deadline.

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  5. Lets hope if the Tigers are contending at the trade deadline, they don’t trade J.D.and Kinsler anyway. A real punch in the gut to fans if the team is a couple of games back and they say goodbye to them because their contracts are up after 2017. A tough call to make, esp. if all they get back are prospects who won’t be able to help in the stretch drive.

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  6. Sending mixed messages about whether they will contend or just compete makes me skeptical about everything they say. They should be up-front with the message or they risk shopper’s paralysis. Fans will only buy in if they know exactly what they’re getting.

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    • I agree. I feel like the Tigers have given me whiplash as far as their intentions. Wait and see has got to be the word of the day. Maybe the fog will lift soon…..

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  7. Regarding payroll, when is the luxury tax calculated? Is it the opening day roster, end of season roster, average of the entire season? Thanks.

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    • Hi, Joe – It is calculated at the end of the year when all payroll-related categories (app. 10) are finalized. As it stands now, the Tigers would risk having to pay $65 million for going over the ceiling. Great question! – Holly

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      • Hi, Tim – Sometimes it’s tough to give details when you must keep your answers short. In a nutshell, if the Tigers don’t reduce payroll significantly by the end of next year, they fall under the “repeat offender” list and subject to a 30% tax on their payroll. $65 mill is the highest they could be fined – which probably won’t happen. – Holly

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  8. The Tigers are cutting payroll, their declaration to the fanbase. Really? It seems they would have been better served this week by keeping their contingent home and saving all that money on plane fare and room and board and ancillaries.

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  9. As the Central is now configured, health is the only question mark as to whether the Tigers, as they are now configured, can contend. Problem is, this is a fragile physical team and the likelihood of them staying “reasonably” healthy is very small. That said, they have to feed the masses whatever message to keep the money coming in.

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  10. I think Al is shopping the White Sox for a certain lefty back up catcher with his initials already embroidered on a gift contract under the tree!

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