Offseason Outlook: Detroit Tigers

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Tigers.  Their likely commitments for 2010:

C – Gerald Laird – $2.8MM+
C – Alex Avila – $400K
1B – Miguel Cabrera – $20MM
2B – Scott Sizemore – $400K
SS – Ramon Santiago – $825K+
3B – Brandon Inge – $6.6MM
IF – Brent Dlugach – $400K
LF – Carlos Guillen – $13MM
CF – Curtis Granderson – $5.5MM
RF – Magglio Ordonez – $18MM
OF – Ryan Raburn – $410K
OF – Clete Thomas – $403K
DH – Marcus Thames – $2.275MM+

SP – Justin Verlander – $3.675MM+
SP – Edwin Jackson – $2.2MM+
SP – Rick Porcello – $1.025MM
SP – Nate Robertson – $10MM
SP – Jeremy Bonderman – $12.5MM

Other candidates: Dontrelle Willis – $12MM, Armando Galarraga – $435K

RP – Joel Zumaya – $735K+
RP – Ryan Perry – $400K
RP – Bobby Seay – $1.3MM+
RP – Zach Miner – $438K+
RP – Armando Galarraga – $435K
RP – Fu-Te Ni – $400K
RP – Freddy Dolsi – $407K

Non-tender candidates: Marcus Thames, Matt Treanor

The Tigers have about $116.5MM committed before arbitration raises to Laird, Santiago, Thames, Verlander, Jackson, Zumaya, Seay, Miner, and Treanor.  Thames and Treanor could be non-tendered, but the raises should easily exceed $10MM.  The Tigers could be approaching $130MM committed after entering 2009 at $115MM (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts).

Given the payroll limitations and his recent history, GM Dave Dombrowski does not figure to be heavily involved with free agents.  Last year he went the trade route to acquire Jackson, Laird, and Josh Anderson and signed free agents Adam Everett, Brandon Lyon, Treanor, and Ni for a total of $6.5MM.

With 2009 starters Placido Polanco and Everett eligible for free agency, the Tigers' middle infield is up in the air.  Sizemore is still the favorite to take over at second base despite suffering a broken ankle in the Arizona Fall League.  Sizemore, 25 in January, hit .308/.378/.473 in 330 Triple A plate appearances this year.  Assuming manager Jim Leyland still views Santiago as a backup player, perhaps the Tigers will re-sign Everett or add a similar affordable free agent.  Internally, Dlugach merits a look.

Raburn profiles as one of the game's better fourth outfielders, so the Tigers are protected if Guillen is injured or ineffective.  Despite the current plan to use Guillen as the everyday left fielder, it may make sense to non-tender Thames and let Guillen DH.  The Tigers' middling offense of 2009 will need to improve mainly from within, with Granderson and Guillen capable of better seasons.

The excellent front three are set in the rotation, and the final two spots may be snagged by pricey veterans in their contract years: Robertson, Bonderman, and Willis.  Bonderman, just 26, seems healthy and is being penciled in by LeylandThe Tigers have been linked to free agent Aroldis Chapman, an investment that could conceivably be part of the scouting budget.  Whether Chapman could contribute in 2010 is unknown.

The Tigers face two possible late-inning losses in the bullpen in Fernando Rodney and Lyon.  If Rodney feels that his 37 saves should lead to a $6MM+ salary, he should be allowed to leave.  Likewise, Lyon may want a raise after posting a 2.86 ERA in 78.6 innings.  Zumaya and Perry could seize the opportunity, if they keep the walks down.

The Tigers continue to be hamstrung by lousy contract extensions, but they have enough talent to compete in 2010.  Bonderman, Willis, Robertson, Inge, Laird, and possibly Ordonez could be off the books after '10, so Dombrowski will gain a lot of flexibility at that point.

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