Looking at Detroit's Payroll, Some Tigers Clearly Aren't Earning Their Stripes

Austin DrakeSenior Analyst IAugust 18, 2009

A player who is productive, makes things happen, and comes up big in the clutch deserves to make the big bucks.

But some players just get lucky to not have to do any of that and make a hefty salary, and the Detroit Tigers seem to have a lot of those type of players.

On the other hand, many players can produce and come up big for their teams, but still have yet to find their payday. The Detroit Tigers seem to have a lot of those type of players too.

After getting hyped up about contracts over the past few weeks, I did some research on the best and worst, the good and ugly, of the Detroit Tigers' payroll.

First off, after the additions of Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff this season, the Tigers will cash out with around a $140 million payroll. That ranks them with the fifth-highest checkbook in the Major Leagues.

Here are the worst contracts of the Tigers 2009 payroll:

Magglio Ordonez: $18 million

Ordonez's situation with the Tigers is uglyreally ugly. There is no releasing him, because nobody will pick up his huge salary off of waivers, and there is no way Detroit will pay his contract while he sits in free agency.

Paying a guy $18 million to hit .271 with just seven home runs and 37 runs batted is a bit ridiculous. But when the contract was signed, Maggs was an above .300 hitter with an average of 20 or more home runs and at least 90 runs batted in a year.

If Ordonez reaches 540 plate appearances this season, or his plate appearences from 2008 and 2009 add up to 1,080, the Tigers will have to pay his Vesting Option at $18 million contract next season as well. If he dosen't reach those numbers, Detroit can buy out his contract for $3 million and release him.

So, just don't let him hit, right? Wrong.

Problem No. 1: Ordonez is heating up, and the Tigers are in the middle of the playoff hunt, so they need him. Since the beginning of August, he has raised his average from .258 to .271.

Problem No. 2: If Jim Leyland constantly sits Ordonez, a grievance may be filed against the Tigers. Ordonez's agent, Scott Boras, would probably have a solid case if he continues to sit without being hurt.

But remember, the grievance may cost the Tigers some money, but the chances of it reaching the numer of $18 million are slim.

Dave Dombrowski has some thinking to do on this one.

Gary Sheffield: $13.6 million

This guy isn't even on the team!

After being released in the offseason by Detroit, his $13.6 contract is still being paid by the Tigers, minus the league minimum the New York Mets are paying him, of course.

Sheffield takes up more then 10 percent of the team's salary, and he dosen't even play on the team, in same division, or even the same league.

Just imagine what Detroit could have got at the trade deadline if they had an extra $13 million laying around.

Dontrelle Willis: $10 Million

What an ugly contract this is for the Tigers.

Since joining Detroit, Willis is 1-6 with an ERA around 8.40 while averaging 10 walks per nine innings of work.

The worst thing about this is that Detroit owes D-Train $12 million next season.

His health and control problems have really been a blow to the Tigers team and their checkbook.

Nate Robertson: $7 million

This is likely one of the worst contracts ever done by Dave Dombrowski.

Giving a less-than-average starter or long reliever $7 million anytime is a disgrace. It's even worse when you have to dish out $10 million to him next season.

After allowing 18 earned runs in 21 innings on the mound this season, he was placed on the DL and has spent much time in the minor leagues. After all that, he will get paid $3 million more next season, and that's just not right.

Jeremy Bonderman: $12.5 million 

Okay, Bonderman makes more then Robertson, but at least his arm has some hope in it. Also, he isn't getting paid more next season.

His 2010 contract is identical to his 2009 contract, and a comeback is unlikely this season.

Next season, when Jarrod Washburn may be gone to free agency, a return to the rotation may be in order for Bondo.

Now, switching from the bad news to the good news. Here are the best contracts of the Detroit Tigers' 2009 payroll:

Justin Verlander: $3.675 million

Verlander is simply outstanding, and any Tigers fan can vow for that.

Paying this little amount of money for a starting pitcher who leads the American League in strikeouts and is a canidate for Cy Young is downright impressive.

After this 2009 season, Verlander is still under team control for two more seasons, but he is arbitration eligible in both.

To avoid arbitration, look for Dombrowksi to lock him up long-term. It isn't going to be cheap for Detroit, though, as Verlander is now a premier pitcher in the Majors.

Edwin Jackson: $2.2 million

Jackson is an absolute steal from the Tampa Bay Raysmaybe the most lobsided deal of the past few years in Major League Baseball.

To get Edwin Jackson, the Tigers had to give up outfielder Matt Joyce, who has spent most of 2009 in the minor leagues.

Jackson is 9-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 2009. To get those numbers from a player the Tigers are paying $2.2 million for is great for Detroit.

But, just like Verlander, Jackson is arbitration eligible the next two years. His great first season with Detroit makes it seem "E.J." will be around for awhile, so his payday is coming and it's near.

Rick Porcello: $1.2 million

Porcello is a front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year and a solid starter in the rotation.

Porcello started 2009 at age 20, and he didn't waste anytime getting started, as he jumped out to a 6-3 record with a 3.48 ERA.

After a bit of struggling, Porcello has bounced back to a 10-7 record, although he currently suspended because of his role in a bench-clearing frucas at Fenway Park.

Not only is he cheap now, but in his final year of his contract (2012), Porcello will only be making $1.344 million. That sounds good for the long haul.

Curtis Granderson: $3.5 Million

As a 2009 All-Star selection, Granderson is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Some say he is the best leadoff man in the league, as his rare mix of God-given ability, baseball IQ, and hustle make him a grade-A player on and off the field.

His power numbers resemble many team's three through five hitters. His speed and stolen bases could be close to a Carl Crawford or Willy Taveras if given the chance. His defensive ability in centerfield may top every player in the majors today.

The Tigers notice all of this, and his contract states that. Each season for the next four years, his salary rises. He will get $3.5 million this season and work his way up to $13 million in 2013.

By then, I believe he will be well worth the money, because Granderson will be a perennial gold glove winner.

Miguel Cabrera: $15 Million

You may be saying to yourself; "$15 million is a lot of money, so how is this a good contract?"

This may be one of the best contracts in all of baseball. He signed the biggest deal in Tigers history at eight years and $152 million before he even tried on his Detroit uniform.

In his first season with Detroit, he led the American League in home runs with 37. That's exactly what you expect from a middle-of-the-order guy that is getting paid that much.

This season, while still only getting paid $15 million, he has one of the best batting averages in the MLB at .330. He also leads the Tigers in home runs with 24 and RBIs with 70.

Let's hope that he can stay healthy and produce the way he is now in 2015.

Before I go, here are some other Tiger contracts for your own personal knowledge:

Marcus Thames: $2.275 million

Carlos Guillen: $10 million

Brandon Lyon: $4.25 million

Aubrey Huff: $8 million

Jarrod Washburn: $3.6 million

Fernando Rodney: $2.7 million

As you can see, there are many flaws in the Tigers' payroll. If they could somehow get some of these players like Robertson, Willis, and Ordonez off of their wallet, Detroit could do something real big this offseason.

We'll have to wait and see.


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