Free Agent Miscues Led to Tigers' Demise
Last year, the Detroit Tigers opened the season with a $139 million payroll, which was the second largest in the major leagues. Some reports state that the Tigers lost $40 million last year. For that reason, Detroit owner Mike Illitch has decided to cut payroll for the 2009 season.
First and foremost, I have to question the loss of $40 million. In a story I wrote for Sports Business Digest, I showed that that number is crap. I am not saying they haven’t made mistakes, but what I am saying is GM Dave Dombrowski signed four bad contracts that have cost this team a shot at competing in 2009.
I really don’t buy the argument that because of the economic slump, the Tigers just don’t have the money to spend in 2009. By my account, they are at least $24 million below the $139 million 2008 figure. Edgar Renteria is gone, and so is Ivan Rodriguez. They both stood to make $12 million from the Tigers in 2009.
The four bad contracts that are conspiring against this team are the two-year, $28 million deal for Gary Sheffield, the three-year, $29 million deal for Dontrelle Willis, the three-year $24 million deal for Brandon Inge, and the three-year, $21.25 million deal for Nate Robertson. Together, those players will make close to $40 million—or 26 percent—of the 2008 payroll.
If we added in the other big-time contract for Magglio Ordonez—five years at $75 million, or $15 million per season—then that equals 37 percent of the 2008 payroll.
Sheffield hit .225 with 19 home runs and 57 RBI in an injury plagued 2008. Inge hit .237 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI. Robertson went 6-11 with a 6.35 ERA, while striking out 108 batters. Willis went 0-2 with a 9.38 ERA and 18 strikeouts.
That is not exactly money well spent.
If it were not for those bad contracts, the Tigers could have been players for several top-tier free agents. Arguably the biggest need on this team was a closer and the best one on the market this year was Francisco Rodriguez. He signed with the New York Mets for three years at $37 million—or $12.3 million per year.
If Dombrowski could have just deleted the Sheffield contract, or not signed Willis to a ridiculous deal, K-Rod is a Detroit Tiger today. These bad contracts are the reason that the Tigers will not be able to compete in 2009.
I think it is time for Dombrowski to get fired; he came here when the Tigers were a last place team, and now he has returned them to a last place team. Along with him, manager Jim Leyland, in the final year of his contract, should be let go. The Tigers need a fresh start, both on the field and in the front office.