Offseason Outlook: Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are next in our Offseason Outlook series.  Here’s what they have for 2009:

C – Brandon Inge – $6.3MM
C – Dusty Ryan – $400K
1B – Miguel Cabrera – $15MM
2B – Placido Polanco – $4.6MM
SS – Ramon Santiago – $575K+
3B – Carlos Guillen – $10MM
IF – Michael Hollimon – $400K
IF/OF – Ryan Raburn – $400K
LF – Matt Joyce – $400K
CF – Curtis Granderson – $3.5MM
RF – Magglio Ordonez – $18MM
OF – Marcus Thames – $1.275MM+
DH – Gary Sheffield – $14MM

SP – Justin Verlander – $500K+
SP – Jeremy Bonderman – $12.5MM
SP – Armando Galarraga – $400K
SP – Zach Miner – $410K
SP – Nate Robertson – $7MM

RP – Fernando Rodney – $1.7MM+
RP – Gary Glover – $1.075MM+
RP – Bobby Seay – $780K+
RP – Joel Zumaya – $420K+
RP – Aquilino Lopez – $400K
RP – Clay Rapada – $400K
RP – Freddy Dolsi – $400K

Other commitments: Edgar Renteria – $3MM buyout, Rick Porcello – $1.2MM, Dontrelle Willis – $10MM

The Tigers have about $115MM committed for 2009, not including arbitration raises to Santiago, Thames, Rodney, Glover, Seay, Zumaya, and Verlander.  So, they should be over $120MM with the current group.  The Tigers had an opening day payroll of $137.7MM in 2008.  Lynn Henning says to expect a drastic payroll reduction – "perhaps by $40 million or more."

As Henning notes, the Tigers may need to trade Ordonez to slice payroll down to the $100MM range.  Maggs is the team’s highest-paid player, and he has a fine .892 OPS.  Ordonez essentially comes with a three-year, $48MM contract.  Certain teams might find that contract acceptable, but not if the price also includes quality young players.  The Braves might be a good match if the Tigers are mainly looking for salary relief.

No team would assume the contracts of Sheffield, Robertson, or Willis, so there’s no point in trading them.  Polanco, Bonderman, and Thames probably have trade value, but the Tigers don’t necessarily have ready replacements.

Even if the Tigers move Ordonez’s contract, they won’t have much left over for free agents.  It’s hard to picture marquee free agents like Francisco Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, or Rafael Furcal being considered if Henning’s report is accurate.  They might be able to dig around the bargain bin, re-upping Freddy Garcia and adding a nondescript veteran reliever.

The Tigers can contend in 2009, but it’ll probably require comebacks from current players such as Bonderman, Willis, Verlander, Robertson, Sheffield, Rodney, and Zumaya.  The Tigers have one blue-chip prospect in Rick Porcello, who might be able to contribute in the second half. 

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