Detroit Tigers: Offseason Spending will be “More Restrictive” This Year


Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila was interviewed on MLB Network’s Hot Stove yesterday, talking about the team’s offseason plans.

The entire interview (you can find it embeded below) is interesting — they of course talked about the need for more pitching — but one statement that was keyed in on on social media yesterday, was Avila’s assertion that the team’s financial flexibility would be “more restrictive” this offseason than it has been in the past.

"Matt Vasgersian: “How would you categorize the level of financial flexibility you have as compared to the last few seasons there?Al Avila: “I would say it’s probably more restrictive this year, just because we have money invested in so many guys already. But in saying that, Mr. Ilitch obviously still wants to go out there and win a championship so we will be out there in the free agent market trying to do the best we can with the money that we have.”"

There are a few ways one could take this:

Firstly, Mike Ilitch might really be trying to rein in the payroll. The Tigers opened the 2015 season with an payroll around $172 million. Maybe “more restrictive” would staying below that number or reverting back to 2014’s opening day payroll of $163 million.

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That might mean the Tigers “only” would have $50 million to spend on players this offseason (including arbitration eligible players) with about $110 million already committed to Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez, and Ian Kinsler.

Secondly, Avila might be indicating that they’re not going to give out large contracts (in terms of either years or dollars) to any individual free agent. Perhaps they will still be willing to match (or exceed) last year’s payroll, but, with so many holes to fill, they will be looking to spread the funds across several players with shorter-term commitments.

That sort of plan would be similar (in some ways) to my previous proposal of spending their way out of their potential payroll crisis.

Thirdly, Avila might be posturing. The Tigers (and Mike Ilitch) have become known as a team willing to go “all in” and give big dollars to big name players in pursuit of a championship. It could be that the Tigers are planning to surpass last year’s payroll, but that they don’t want to be used as another piece in a Scott Boras (to pick a name) bidding war.

Dave Dombrowski used to say one thing and do another all the time. (Last year he said the Tigers weren’t trading a starting pitcher and then traded Rick Porcello before the sentence had fully escaped his lips). It is certainly easier for general managers to set expectations low — both for fans and potential free agents — and then make a big splash if a sensible move develops than it would be to do the opposite.

Here’s the video with the full interview:

It will certainly be interesting to see the approach Avila takes to the offseason in his first year in control of the team.