Edson: After the World Series Ends, Tigers Will Explore Trades
The unwritten rule of baseball is that the World Series will not be upstaged.
That is, the TV money being paid to baseball is so large that teams not involved in the Series are told to keep quiet until after a new champion is crowned.
With the Series about to open on Tuesday, we know that Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has his marching orders: Trim the payroll, then get younger and faster.
The Tigers need only to look back at their modern history to learn their lessons.
Lesson No. 1: After winning the World Series in 1968, general manager Jim Campbell let his team get too old before he started to change his roster. Granted, the Tigers won the Eastern Division title in 1972 with his aging stars. But by 1975, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball. So the lesson was to get rid of his high-priced stars while they still had some trade value.
Lesson No. 2: After winning the World Series in 1984, the Tigers let their stars opt for free agency instead of signing them. Case in point – Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson. Both went on to lead teams to World Series titles – Morris for the Minnesota Twins and Gibson for the Los Angeles Dodgers. So it is a delicate balance in deciding when to part with your best players.
With that in mind, Avila has to decide which of his players to part with.
The best bet is that he will offer right fielder J.D. Martinez to the best bidder. Martinez is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2017 season and he is owed $11.75 million. Avila said last week that he doesn’t foresee any long-term contract talks with Martinez and his agent.
Part of that is because last year the Tigers gave a six-year deal worth $132 million to free agent left fielder Justin Upton. Even though Martinez hit .307 this season with 22 home runs and 68 RBI, his defense fell off sharply. If the Tigers do trade him, they could get a young player and a prospect for him.
There is also talk of trading second baseman Ian Kinsler and testing the market for Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.
While Tigers fans might howl in protest, trading the big contracts of Verlander and Cabrera makes good business sense. The Tigers could get a huge haul of young, talented players for the pair. And they drop the Tigers’ $176 million payroll way down. They could also combine these players with the haul of young pitchers former general manager Dave Dombrowski got at last year’s trade deadline. Good pitching also helps a team stay in the contention.
The downside for business is this: What big names would help fill Comerica Park on a daily basis? My answer is that winning takes care of business.
So Avila would have to cast his fishing line out and see what kind of strikes he gets. That’s exactly what will happen this off-season.
There are some skeptics who say that unloading the contracts of Cabrera and Verlander is next to impossible. The truth is, it’s not.
Money-laden teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers would be lining up to bid for either one. The only question would be: Do they have the prospects to give back to the Tigers in return. The other solution is for the Tigers to pay for part of the remaining balance on those contracts in order to put other teams – with better prospects – in play.
So right after the last out of the World Series you can start to follow what the Tigers will do. This should be the most interesting post-season for them in years.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.