December 3rd, 2009

Polanco's 3-year deal and arbitration

Placido Polanco’s three-year, $18 million contract with the Phillies marks the second time in as many year that a Tigers free-agent infielder has signed a multi-year deal after Detroit declined to offer arbitration. Both Polanco and Edgar Renteria were Type A free agents, meaning Detroit would’ve gotten two draft picks each had they offered arbitration and the free agents had turned it down.

How negotiations unfolded proves interesting. By all accounts, interest in Polanco picked up a couple days ago once the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration. However, MLB.com’s Phillies writer, Todd Zolecki, wrote that the Phillies and Polanco were in serious discussions beforehand:

It appeared the Phillies and Polanco’s representatives were in serious
discussions before the Tigers decided not to offer Polanco salary
arbitration before Tuesday’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline. The fact that
Philadelphia will not have to forfeit its first-round pick in the 2010
First-Year Player Draft to sign him must have made him even more
attractive to the team.

Would Philly have moved in on him so quickily if it had to give up a draft pick to sign him? Not sure, but it’s difficult to envision the Red Sox and Astros, among other clubs, moving on him if they had to.

There was a definite feeling leading up to Tuesday’s deadline that an arbitration offer would’ve hurt Polanco’s market value. There were also strong indications that Polanco probably would’ve accepted the offer and gone to arbitration looking for a one-year salary on par with some of the bigger contracts for second basemen out there. He would’ve almost surely received a bigger salary than the $6 million he’ll average per year in Philly, possibly much bigger, and he would’ve been back on the market next winter at age 35.

The Tigers could’ve called his bluff if they thought that’s what it was. But given their payroll and their needs left to fill, they couldn’t have afforded a big salary — had they lost an arbitration case — at a position where they already felt they had a replacement ready.

Baseball America: Tigers farm system in bottom half

It’s a familiar refrain over the last couple years since the Miguel Cabrera trade, but given the coming need for prospects, it’s worth a mention. Baseball America’s John Manuel wrote a piece for SI.com ranking the best and worst farm systems, and while he didn’t assign a specific number to the Tigers, he ranked them in the 16-25 range. It wasn’t among the five worst — that belongs to the Astros, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Nationals — but it wasn’t in the top half, either.

“Top arms are green, and organization overall lacks athleticism.”

Ouch, moreso about the latter than the former. Given the Tigers’ well-known struggles developing position prospects, however, it isn’t necessarily a surprise, Wilkin Ramirez and Casper Wells aside.

Look for more tomorrow on tigers.com on how the Tigers farm system factors into their dealings.

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