December 8th, 2012

What Greinke deal means for Sanchez, Verlander

Now this offseason market gets real for the Tigers.

I’m off for vacation heading into the holidays, so I won’t be writing about it much the next couple weeks, but I thought it was worth a blog post to set the scene. Because now that Zack Greinke has his deal — reportedly six years and $147 million from the Dodgers — the pitching market is set for others to follow. That includes Anibal Sanchez, regarded by many as the next-best free-agent starter on the market.

For the Tigers’ purposes, that also means Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency (when most teams try to lock up the starting pitchers they covet while security is still a big deal for them).

The belief going into the Winter Meetings was that a Greinke deal with the Dodgers would be good for the Tigers, because it would take this offseason’s biggest spenders out of the market for Sanchez. None of the other potential suitors have the financial might that the Dodgers do with new local television money coming.

Well, Greinke is a Dodger, but it’s no longer a certainty that Los Angeles will stop there. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Dodgers have interest in both Sanchez and fellow free agent Kyle Lohse. Whether that interest has a financial limit remains to be seen; the Dodgers payroll is picking up speed towards $200 million. But if they’re interested, they’re going to be a major factor that might force the Tigers to make a very difficult decision.

So, too, could the Rangers, if they want to make a pitch for Sanchez after losing out on Greinke. So, too, could a couple other teams. Maybe the Angels, still with room for a starter, try to answer their neighbors’ news. Maybe the Royals, who have made pitching their top priority this winter, could make a run after all. Maybe the Red Sox try to bring back their former prospect. Maybe a contending team in need of a starter has been quietly waiting for the Sanchez bidding to pick up so it can make a move.

Greinke’s contract didn’t get into the $160+ million territory that had been rumored, but it’ll still rank as the highest average annual salary for a right-handed pitcher (CC Sabathia still holds the overall pitching mark at just under $25 million). Sanchez isn’t in that class, but Greinke’s contract will still have a major impact. Sanchez is just four months younger than Greinke, but he has more than 600 fewer Major League innings of wear and tear. He isn’t nearly as proven, but he also isn’t as taxed.

One talent evaluator observing the Sanchez situation at the Winter Meetings said he doesn’t believe Sanchez will get as much money as many might expects. He might get the years, but not the money. That’s all relative, of course, but it’ll be interesting to watch.

But you know who is easily in Greinke’s class, even above it? Justin Verlander. He’s eight months older, and he has more innings, but he has a lot more accomplished on his resume as well. If Greinke is worth just under $25 million, what could Verlander get on the market in two years, still in his early 30s?

It’s the Tigers’ goal to make sure it never gets to that point. It won’t be cheap, but Verlander’s a superstar, and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch loves having superstar players. If it’s going to happen, this is the offseason to do it. But Greinke’s contract shifts the market a little bit, both in money and in years.

Scherzer, too, is two years out from the open market. He doesn’t have nearly the resume, but he’s coming off the best season of his career (though 2010 is close on the secondary numbers). He also has Scott Boras, an agent who eschews long-term contracts before a pitcher hits the open market. If the Tigers are going to make Scherzer a Tiger for years to come, it is not going to be easy. What Greinke’s deal does for Scherzer is show that you don’t have to be a true ace to get a big-time contract. That, too, is dangerous for the Tigers.

TigerFest is back Jan. 26 at Comerica Park

TigerFest is back after a one-year hiatus. The annual winter warmup event that gets Detroit looking forward to baseball season, which was tabled last year due to stadium renovations, will take place on Jan. 26, 2013 from 11am-5pm at Comerica Park.

The Tigers officially announced the return on Saturday morning. While a list of every player scheduled to attend doesn’t come until January, the press release put out Saturday includes Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter.

The setup is much the same as before: Lots of opportunities for autographs (including a kids-only line), photos with players, home clubhouse and other tours, seminars and interviews, and ice sculptures. In addition, the Tigers are giving away a Miguel Cabrera Triple Crown pennant to every fan as they make their way through the entrance gate.

If you’ve been to TigerFest before, you know the deal on the weather. Most of the attractions will either be indoors or will be heated and covered, but with passageways in between and some of the events quite popular, it’s best to dress for January in Detroit.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for kids age 12 and under, and go on sale next Friday at 10am online at tigers.com/tigerfest and by phone at 866-66-TIGER.

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