Yesterday, we took a look at what the Tigers should do with their seven free agents and today we’ll take a peak into their arbitration situation. Obviously, the Tigers aren’t going to arbitration. Dombrowski doesn’t do that. But it’s important to look at what we expect each player to make so that we have a sense of the likely payroll going into the signing/trading part of the season and who could be trade bait and where the holes are.
The Tigers have six cases: David Price, Rick Porcello, Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, Al Alburquerque, and JD Martinez
David Price – SP
So Price is obviously getting tendered a contract and it will build from $14 million, which was his 2014 settling figure. I think we’re probably looking at something in the $18-$20 million range and it’s very likely that the team will approach Price about a long term deal with the money that they aren’t paying to Max Scherzer.
Price is in a position of strength because he’s already made plenty of money, has more than $15 million guaranteed for 2015 via arbitration, and can dictate his price to the Tigers. If he wants to stay in Detroit long term, then he’ll shoot for a deal before Opening Day, but if not, it’s an easy call to play the field.
Recommendation: Settle around $19 million, offer a five or six year extension. Don’t overpay, explore trade market interest with an eye on legitimate future upgrades.
Rick Porcello – SP
Porcello will probably wind up making $12 million or so in arbitration, give or take, and will then be up for free agency at year’s end. The Tigers need to work to lock him up long term and need to do it now. Porcello doesn’t have much reason to sign an extension because he’s already made plenty of money and doesn’t have to worry much about the financial future of his future kids. The next contract is going to be a big one, but it’s not life changing money. That ship has sailed.
For the Tigers, they can’t let Porcello and Price walk, but Porcello will be younger and cheaper and has long roots in the organization. Offering him an extra four to five years at something like $17-$18 million a year sounds like a smart move. If he’ll take anything less, the Tigers need to jump at the offer.
Recommendation: Settle around $12 million, offer a four or five year extension. Extend at virtually anything below market value.
Andy Dirks – OF
Dirks’ question is his health. He’s established himself as something between a fourth outfielder and a very solid major league regular. With an entire year off, Dirks won’t get the kind of raise he might have been approaching, and keeping it under $4 million is pretty likely.
Dirks should get a chance to get healthy and earn a job on the 2015 club. You probably don’t want to count on him for 400 PA or more, but there’s no virtue in cutting him or dealing him right now.
Recommendation: Settle around $3 million. Hope for 2015 Opening Day.
Don Kelly – EVERYTHING
Kelly’s easy because he’s so cheap. Pay him $2 million and worry about the rest later. He’s a nice, versatile option to have on the bench that allows you to overload one position with quality pinch hitters (if they actually recognize the need) and doesn’t cause any problems. If there’s no roster spot in March, put him on waivers and store him in AAA if he’s up for it. It’s a small financial risk, but if you non-tender him, you’re just going to wind up signing him in February for $1.2 million.
Recommendation: Settle for $2 million.
Al Alburquerque – RP
Al-Al’s price is going to stay low enough because he’s not a closer and he’s actual one of the team’s reasonably useful relievers. He made $840K in 2014. Less than $3 million? Easy.
Recommendation: Settle for $2.5 million.
JD Martinez – OF
So this one’s going to be interesting because of how much his platform season differs from the rest of his career. Martinez is going to have some fun in arbitration because he slugged the ball, but he’s also only looking at one year of payable performance. I don’t really have a sense of how the process looks at those guys, but I would expect something like $3-$5 million. He’s obviously earned a spot in the team for 2014 even if you think he’s not a completely reformed player.
Do the research, figure out exactly what they surprise breakouts earn and make a fair offer.
Recommendation: $4 million?
In total, the Tigers will bring back Price, Porcello, Dirks, Al-Al, and Martinez without a doubt. Maybe they non-tender Kelly, but it’s not a hugely important question in terms of offseason planning. Given the cost, Price could be a player worth dangling in a trade, but otherwise, the club will retain the group and work for roster upgrades around them.