The numbers behind the Tigers’ draft debate
Opening Week has come and gone, and so far, there’s no sign of a deal between the Tigers and free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. So for now, it looks like if there’s a chance at it happening, it’ll likely involve either a horrendous start from Alex Gonzalez, or Drew remaining on the market into June, which would take the draft compensation tag off of him.
It’s the draft pick that appears to be looming in importance for the Tigers, who currently hold the 23rd overall selection. It’s not just the pick, but the spending cap money that comes with it. A look at the numbers gives some hint why.
If nothing else changes between now and June, the Tigers will go into the draft with just under $4.9 million of cap money to spend on their top 10 picks, sixth lowest among the 30 Major League clubs. About $1.95 million of that money comes from their first-round pick, though they can spend some of that money elsewhere if they sign their top pick for below slot. If the Tigers sign Drew and forfeit their first-round pick, they’ll have just under $3 million to spend on their remaining nine picks. Only the Orioles ($2.2 million), who gave up draft picks to sign Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez this spring, would have less to spend.
Whether that decides this matter is certainly debatable. On the one hand, even with a new manager and younger players being worked, this is still a team looking to win now, and a team whose best chance to win looks like this year and maybe next as players hit free agency. On the other hand, Miguel Cabrera’s record deal puts a new imperative on player development to bring some younger, cost-controlled talent through the system to Detroit if the Tigers have any chance of staying a long-term contender, and this year’s draft reportedly runs deep in talent — deep enough that the late first round and the rounds beyond that should matter. Of course, the Tigers should get some extra help from next year’s draft if they make Max Scherzer a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere.
Also, in case you were wondering, the Tigers have the sixth-lowest spending cap on international signings with just under $2 million. That won’t change whether the Tigers eventually sign Drew or not.