The 2013 Payroll: Facts, Speculation, and a Plug for Little Caesars


Mike Ilitch made it very clear this winter that he is going to push hard for a World Series title over the next couple years.  Considering the state of the 2012 Tigers (by that I mean the hope to just make the playoffs, as opposed to the expectation of making the World Series), I can’t help but wonder what Ilitch thinks about his 2013 payroll.

The 2012 payroll sits at $133,475,000.  That was an increase of approximately $27 million from 2011.  I do not expect that Ilitch will authorize any such increase again, but given the strong attendance numbers and a base roster expected to compete again, it would not shock me to see the payroll hold steady or even increase a little bit.  Here are the facts for 2013:

Under Contract: Fielder – 23 million, Cabrera – 21 million, Verlander – 20 million, Benoit – 5.5 million, Santiago – 2.1 million, Turner – 1.2 million

Club Options: Peralta – 6 million, Dotel – 3.5 million

Arbitration Eligible: 1st time – Jackson, Boesch, Avila, Fister.  2nd time – Scherzer, Porcello, Coke, Kelly.  3rd time – Raburn

Making the minimum (apx $500,000): Alburquerque, Dirks, Below, Marte, Smyly, and . . . ?

Add all the guaranteed contracts and the payroll sits at approximately $86 million next season.

Now for the speculation.  I believe the club will pick up the options on both Peralta and Dotel.  Peralta is valuable even if he can’t reach the numbers from 2011.  There are not many shortstops available in free agency that would be an upgrade without a big cost increase.  Dotel is valuable as a veteran relief presence in a bullpen that may be very young next season, especially after Valverde likely departs in free agency.

The arbitration eligible players can be difficult to predict.  In the cases of Jackson, Avila, Scherzer, and Porcello, Dombrowski must be toying with the prospect of offering them long term deals.  However, given Avila’s health struggles and the inconsistency of Scherzer and Porcello, Jackson may be the only/best option.  I believe DD will forego all and simply settle on arbitration.

The first time eligible players will all come in at or around $3 million.  Scherzer and Porcello will probably be around $4 million, and Coke will bump up to around $2 million.  I believe the Tigers will cut ties with either Raburn or Kelly after the season, with whoever stays making around $1.5 million.

Obviously, these numbers are nothing but educated guesses, but when added up (including the handful of minimum salaries), the 2013 payroll comes to approximately $125 million.  There are many other factors at play, of course.  The Tigers may trade for someone this summer that will be under contract next year as well.  They may trade away someone like Scherzer, Porcello, or Boesch, and save money in arbitration.

Whether it is this year or next, the Tigers seem destined to acquire a new second basemen.  It may be a young player via trade (like Jose Altuve), or a veteran free agent (like Kelly Johnson).  They will also be in need of a closer, given Valverde’s likely departure.  Whether they go in house or to the free agent market remains unseen.  There are many possibilities with the pitching rotation as well.  They could stay put through the summer and next year, or they may have a salary like that of Matt Garza’s on their hands.

It’s safe to say that something unexpected will happen.  After the 2006 season, the Tigers traded for Gary Sheffield.  After 2007, it was Miguel Cabrera.  After 2010, the Granderson trade shook us all.  And after 2011, Prince Fielder signed a $214 million deal.  So whether it is a closer, 2nd basemen, or starting pitcher adding to next years payroll, I believe Ilitch would approve another $10-15 million onto the $125 million already on the table.  There is no reason to believe he wouldn’t do it.  After all, he may be more anxious if this season ends in disappointment.  As long as ticket and merchandise sales stay up, I don’t see payroll decreasing.

Oh, and have you seen the deals at Little Caesar’s lately?  What a bargain!  And its good pizza, too!  They have so many locations, I never have to drive very far to pick it up.  Any true Tigers fan has no other pizza place on their speed dial.  Pizza, Pizza!