By:  Holly Horning

The news about David Price potentially having his 2017 season end before it even started sent shock waves across baseball with the epicenter located in Boston. For years, Price was believed to be one of the better locks in beating the odds given that he has been relatively injury-free.

But the news has only reinforced what many in baseball are increasingly thinking. And that is investing in players, especially pitchers, at age 30 and beyond, is bad business instinct. And the Hot Stove season has shown that this trend is officially here. That is, until one team gets truly desperate about winning and acts out of impulse.

The case of David Price, even if he fully recovers, is not yet over. Price has a contract in which he can opt out after 2017. But how many teams may willingly give him more than what his current contract states? Six more years at $30 – $32 mill each. Dave Dombrowski was never known for scoring decent monetary deals.

It’s increasingly likely that Price will stay in Boston until he is 36. Whether he’s still in the rotation, or even still pitching, is another matter. And while Dombrowski was initially lauded for landing him, this will probably turn very ugly down the road as the majority of similar situations end up this way.

Contrast this example with what most baseball teams are now doing. They are opting to go with players with less of a track record and making closer to the league minimum of $535,000. Almost half of all players on the 25-man rosters in 2016 were making league minimum and it is expected to go beyond that figure for 2017.

In the meantime, this year has also uncharacteristically seen more than a couple 30+ year olds veterans who are still seeking teams. Yes, focusing on youth is definitely one of the reasons but it is also believed that more stringent drug testing has also forced some to put up figures more consistent with their ages. In other words, stats that are not as impressive as they used to be for that age group.

Let’s face it, being on the wrong side of 30 now is a roadblock to the contracts of old.

Analytics is another factor to consider for helping change Front Office perspectives. But also the evolving face of those in charge. As written in a blog from last year, most teams now have GMs in their 30’s and 40’s with MBAs from prestigious universities in sports management. And they are looking to get the biggest bang for their bucks.

So what about the Tigers? They have 4 contracts of varying concern beyond the end of 2017 – JV, Miggy, Upton and Zimmermann.

J-Up will be 30 by the end of 2017 and even if he has a great year, it’s unlikely that another team will sign him to a better deal. He’d be looking for 5+ years and more than $22 mill per. Zimmermann will be 32 soon and has 3 more years at $25 mill/year. Both will be 35 at the end of their deals.

Miggy is a slightly different story even with his huge salary. Yes, things may get ugly down the road but his hitting skills are not likely to decline as quickly as others. He’s simply too savvy a hitter. But it’s his legs that worry us. At the very least, having him on the team is tempered with the knowledge that we are watching greatness (and history). He’s also the only sure bet of being the next Tiger to get into the Hall.

And if the Tigers make good on their promise to get “younger and leaner”, don’t expect Miggy to be traded. MLB analysts voted him the star least likely to leave his team. Or as they put it, all teams would love to have him, but no teams want that massive, long-term contract.

Ironically, Justin Verlander, despite his contract, is turning out to be the best bet out of these four – maybe save Miggy. He has turned the corner and adjusted his game. He has evolved as a pitcher both physically and mentally. And that bodes well for his future. Add to this the universal belief by the experts that he has the best delivery in the game which is kind to the body and less likely to injure him.

But also add in JV’s attitude, leadership and mentoring abilities. Those are value-added qualities that impact the stats of others on the team and not guaranteed as part of the skills package that comes with ace pitchers.

So if teams are shying away from these kinds of contracts to older players, where does this put JD Martinez? He’s likely to leave after the 2017 season for a number of reasons. But how easily could he receive a contract that similar players won even less than 2 years ago? He turns that magic 30 milestone this year and in this day and time, it works against a player.

But could this new trend actually end up being in the Tigers’ favor? Could JD possibly not receive the desired offers? Could he decide that he’d rather stay in Detroit when all is said and done?

Time will tell. And so will the new owner.

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If you haven’t checked out our site (@totallytigersbb) yet, here’s what you missed this week:

      Could Joe Girardi be looking for a new gig?

      Do you know what the term “Moycado” means?

      Pudge’s controversial remarks about allowing PED users into the Hall

      JV is adamant about punishing PED users

      Jim Leyland loves the Yankees’ chances, but he’s not saying much about the Tigers

      The Red Sox are still not out of the woods re David Price

      More rankings of the farm systems

9 thoughts on “ARMS, AGING AND OPT-OUTS

  1. Holly- do you think the declining demographics in the younger generation viewership that’s hitting the NFL and ESPN hard has anything to do with owners closing thier spending? Back in the 80’s collusion era the fears were the same. Just not the dramatic fall off in the last few years in viewing or parcipitation.


    • Hi, Mike – Great question, but I tend to support the stats about the rise of the millennials having significant impact. They simply want shorter games and often don’t want to watch the games in live-time. Many of them have cut the cable and don’t want to spend all that time involved in one game. They have less patience and tolerance of sports programming that attempts to control how the amount of time they have to dedicate to watching. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly


  2. Justin Upton has the contract JD Martinez deserved…… Sadly it’s due to Upton that the day will come where Martinez will no longer be a tiger.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah. Upton and Zimmerman are the real problems, once Victor’s contract is over this season. Leave it to the Tigers–and former GM Dombrowski–to be the last to get the memo and make the last sucker bets on long-term contracts.


  4. History is on your side Holly, regarding these huge long term contracts in baseball, especially when it pertains to pitching. Sherzer[as an example] has been superb, so far. Yet, his contract was structured in such a way that it is spread out over Thirteen years.


    • Hi, Nick – Funny you should mention Max as he’s part of my Saturday blog. But he is injured – a broken knuckle that started bothering him last year and now unable to pick up a baseball currently. The 14-year contract, interesting to note, was done because the Nats can’t afford him on a regular contract so Boras arranged a deal that avoided a large chunk of taxes (special DC law). The reason why the Nats couldn’t do a regular contract has to do with their lack of media revenue – the Orioles are the majority holders in the tv rights of MASN. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly


  5. 30 is the new 50 & the law of diminishing returns has taken center stage. The fact that the international market is flush with skilled young players who are MLB ready earlier than homegrown options has created a paradigm shift. Competition is stiffer, cheaper, & plentiful, & the physical & financial hurdles facing older players has grown as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Chuck, the Tigers have David Chadd who convinced Al to sign Pelfrey, with his 10 years of mediocre MLB experience, to 2 years and 16M.


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