While the Tigers’ efforts to streamline their roster may not have advanced much this offseason — a scenario that was contemplated at the outset — that doesn’t mean the plan has changed for the years to come. As Anthony Fench of the Detroit Free-Press reports, GM Al Avila says his organization will not continue its current spending levels past the 2017 season.
“Our situation, really, it’s a tough situation,” said Avila. “Everybody’s looked at our payroll, and it’s over $200 million. This will be the second year we’re going over the luxury tax; we certainly are not going to go over the luxury tax for a third year.”
As the veteran baseball executive explained, it’s not just a matter of the team spending “above its means,” as Avila put it last October. There’s also the matter of the new CBA, which would impose a 50% tax on any spending over the luxury tax line of $197MM.
All told, it’s hardly surprising to hear this stance. Detroit has signaled for some time now that a broader shift in approach is in the works, with the organization unable to continue spending near the very top of the league and the current competitive window narrowing.
Looking at the Tigers’ future commitments, there’s just over $138MM already committed for next year. Arb raises will likely occupy another big chunk, and then there’s the likely-to-be-exercised Ian Kinsler option ($10MM). But Detroit ought to have little problem dipping back under the limbo stick with big earners such as J.D. Martinez, Anibal Sanchez (who technically could be retained on a $16MM option), Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez, and Mark Lowe hitting the market.
The biggest future payroll questions, though, are largely out of Detroit’s hands. Outfielder Justin Upton has the right to opt out of his contract following the 2017 season, but he’ll likely need to improve upon his 2016 performance quite a bit in order to pass up the $88.5MM he’d stand to earn from 2018-21. And any possible trades involving highly paid veterans Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Jordan Zimmermann would be contingent upon approval from the players, all of whom have full no-trade protection (though Zimmermann’s full protection turns to partial protection after 2018). Upton has a twenty-team no-trade clause.