Saturday, November 28, 2009

Around the division: Tigers

This has been the winter of rumors for the Tigers.

During and immediately after the general manager meetings early this month, there was a definite Detroit emphasis to the rumor mill. Every day, a new player: First, pitcher Edwin Jackson (13-9. 3.62 in 214 innings) was said to be available. The next day, center fielder Curtis Granderson (30 homers in an otherwise disappointing stat line) was supposedly being shopped. Then a Miguel Cabrera to Boston rumor got started.

The national baseball media is running with this theme for an obvious reason. Detroit's attendance slid about 25 percent last season. The Michigan economy isn't getting better. The Tigers have one of the highest payrolls in MLB ($119 million-plus, according to

Adding one and one and one together, the conventional wisdom is that the Tigers need to shed payroll. And since the likes of Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman and Magglio Ordonez are essentially untradeable — too much money, not enough production — the only way to drastically cut payroll is to dump the usable veterans.

I doubt a fire sale is brewing, however. That doesn't appear to be Mike Ilitch's style. The Detroit pizza magnate (Little Caesar's) has shown a willingness to lose money on his sports teams to win.

The Tigers didn't win enough last season. But the real salary problem is in the likes of Willis ($10 million to go 1-4, 7.49) and Ordonez (9 home runs for his $19 million), not in the guys who can actually play.

The Tigers will shed some money this winter. They're unlikely, for example, to re-sign Placido Polanco, and disappointing mid-summer pickups Jarrod Washburn (above) and Aubrey Huff are definitely not returning.

Perhaps the Tigers will trade Jackson or Granderson — or even Cabrera. But if those guys are moved, it will be in a baseball move, not just moving a contract off the books.

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