The trade rumors that are swirling around The Motor City were shocking at first. Trade Curtis Granderson? Or Edwin Jackson? It seemed unthinkable at the time.
But now that the initial shock has worn off, I am starting to warm up to the idea of the Tigers dismantling the bloated roster they’ve pieced together. Perhaps it’s time for the Tigers to start acting like the mid-tier market franchise they really are rather than pretending they’re the Yankees or Red Sox. A large payroll is not the way a team like the Tigers will win a World Series. That’s a strategy that can only be successful if a team can afford to shell it out year after year — win or lose.
It could be time for Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski to start to employ “Sabermetrics” when drafting players. A “Moneyball” approach to building a winning team may prove much more practical.
Take a look at the Florida Marlins for example. The Marlins have the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball at $36,814,000 and finished 87-75 for a second place finish in the fiercely competitive National League East. Florida finished with a better record than the Tigers (86-77) with a staggering payroll of $115,085,145. In fact, the Marlins would have won the American League Central division in 2009 while the Tigers lost out to the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff after the regular season ended in a tie.
Or take the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished a respectable 84-78 in the rough and tumble American League East. Not a bad record for a team that must square off against the Yankees and Red Sox thirty-eight times a year. The Rays’ payroll in 2009 was $63,313,085 — more than $50 million less than the Tigers.
The Twins are another good team for the Tigers to examine. We all know what they did to us at the end of the season. The real kicker is that they did it with the third lowest payroll in the American League. The Tigers blew a near season-long run in first place with the league’s third highest payroll.
My advice to the Tigers management is to be upfront with the fans. If they’re switching strategies that’s perfectly understandable. But they need to share a long-term vision with the fans if they’re going to do so. Just making random announcements won’t keep the band on the wagon.