Mike Ilitch Appears Willing To Expand Payroll for 2012 Tigers

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After carrying an opening day payroll of around $106 million, the team’s lowest mark since 2007, Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch appears to be ready, willing, and able to bump up spending heading into the 2012 season. MLive’s Chris Iott had a quote from Mr. I. in an article from yesterday.

"What I’m still trying to figure out is what we need for next year. I want to be in a position to make one or two additions, and generally, they’re pretty big additions… I’m already thinking about that. Can you imagine another big bat in our lineup?"

A “pretty big addition” usually costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million. Assuming the Tigers pick up the option on Jose Valverde, they’re looking at a payroll of around $96 million (before making a decision on bringing back Delmon Young) with enough roster spots open for 2-4 position players and a pitcher or two (mostly spots that could be filled from within the organization if needed).

Two “pretty big additions” would probably put payroll in the $125-$135 million range. I didn’t originally anticipate that Mr. Ilitch would be comfortable with those numbers, but perhaps he would be. I think a more likely range is nearer to $115 million. Making a good run in the playoffs this year probably aids in the boosting of the payroll going into next year, but exactly how much more they’re able to take on is unknown. Ilitch has made it no secret that he’s willing to stretch his wallet thin if winning a World Series looks like a possibility, and I think it does for 2012.

Big name bats that will (or could) be on the free agent market include Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, and Aramis Ramirez. You can probably cross off any player that makes his primary position at first base or designated hitter, because Victor Martinez is entrenched as the designated hitter, and no matter how well playing Miguel Cabrera at third base works on the PS3, it’s probably (most definitely) not an option in the real world.

I’d be interested in seeing the Tigers make a push for Aramis Ramirez. He’s currently projected to be a Type B free agent, so Detroit wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick as compensation if they signed him, and third base is a position that the Tigers could easily look to upgrade. Ramirez is certainly no wizard in the field, but he gets a lot of value out of his bat which, although possibly declining, put up a .835 OPS (120 OPS+) over the last three seasons.

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