Talent, Not Payroll Size, Will Determine Success of 2013 Detroit Tigers

Ron JuckettContributor IIIApril 2, 2013

Prince Fielder
Prince FielderHannah Foslien/Getty Images

As the Detroit Tigers go through the 2013 season, a lot will be made of the $148,693,600 salary they have on the payroll.

That is a substantial number. Sports Business Daily estimates that the Tigers will have the sixth highest payroll in Major League Baseball this year, an increase of 13.4 percent over 2012.

The amount of payroll, however, does not translate always into success on the field. The Boston Red Sox had $175 million of payroll last year and lost 93 games.

Each piece of the Tigers roster will determine how well they do this year—from Justin Verlander and his $20 million to Avisail Garcia and his league-minimum $490,000.

What gets lost in the constant talk of escalating salaries is the need of putting a team on the field that actually meshes. It is all well and good to have a potential All-Star at every position, but if they cannot produce, it becomes a giant waste of money.

That is not to say flashing the cash is a bad thing. But a smart general manager needs to determine whether a spot on the roster would be better filled by getting someone via free agency or from their farm system.

Detroit does have the advantage of being able to spend money when needed. Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter are examples of players the Tigers lured via free agency. They traded for Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez and kept both when they became eligible.

The Tigers are also fortunate to be able to reward players, like Justin Verlander, that came through their system to prevent them from leaving.

It is a luxury, but the Tigers realize that in order to compete they have to spend that money.

They also realize in the end that every guy on the roster is important to their overall success.

Monday’s Opening Day win over the Minnesota Twins is a good example of that.

After removing Verlander from the game after five innings, Jim Leyland had to depend on his patchwork bullpen for four to get it. Drew Smyly did his best to nearly blow Verlander’s handiwork.

Yet, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke picked up their games and the Tigers held on for a 4-2 win.

The bottom of the lineup—not as heralded as the big-hitting Cabrera or Fielder—also contributed by stealing bases and executing sacrifices. The first game of the 2013 season showed what the Detroit Tigers were all about—playing together as a team.

We will hear all year about the money spent by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees in trying to buy themselves a pennant. However, the reality is spending money guarantees a team nothing.

The Tigers will deal with this in the next few seasons trying to find the balance between paying high salaries and making sure all the puzzle pieces fit. If they end up with a World Series ring in the next three years then perhaps other teams can learn from the Tigers lesson as opposed to trying just to make a big splash.

*Specific salary and payroll information via Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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