As World Series ends, Tigers’ challenge begins
The Tigers spent the last 3 1/2 weeks watching the Kansas City Royals, the team they consistently beat down the stretch to defend their division title, beat everybody else to not only win the American League, but come within a one-run game of the World Series title, having put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning of Game 7. In its first playoff run in 29 years, Kansas City came closer to a title than Detroit has in five playoff runs over the past nine years.
The Tigers watched quietly, because teams that are out are discouraged from making news until the playoffs are over, giving the competing teams the spotlight. Once the Giants held off the Royals to close out their third World Series title in five years Wednesday night, the Tigers officially embarked on their offseason business Thursday morning.
It’s not likely to be so quiet around here anymore. As Dave Dombrowski put it during his season-ending press conference two weeks ago, “I would think that right after the World Series will be a very busy time for us.”
There’s a lot on the table:
- They have until Saturday to decide on club options for Joakim Soria ($7 million) and catcher Alex Avila ($5.4 million). The team doesn’t usually make announcements on weekends if it can help it, so those decisions appear more likely to arrive on Friday. The Tigers are likely to pick up the option on Soria rather than lose him as a free agent after giving up two top prospects to get him. Whether Detroit picks up the option on Avila only affects the salary, since he isn’t eligible for free agency yet. He becomes arbitration eligible if Detroit declines the option.
- Detroit has until Monday night at midnight to negotiate with its own free agents (Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Jim Johnson, Joel Hanrahan) before they’re free to sign with other clubs. That gives the Tigers a small window to see if they can sign Martinez long-term before any other team has a chance. If Martinez is looking for a four-year contract, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported last week, he’ll likely hit the open market to seek it.
- The same midnight deadline serves as the point when teams have to extend any qualifying offers to their own free agents in order to secure a draft pick should they sign elsewhere. The Tigers haven’t extended a qualifying offer in a while. Considering Scherzer and Martinez could end up as the top pitcher and hitter on the market, the team will probably break the pattern and make the qualifying offer. This year, it’s one year at $15.3 million, and both Scherzer and Martinez would get more than that on the open market.
- Starting Tuesday, the Tigers can make offers and negotiations to other free agents, such as relievers on their shopping list, potential outfield options, maybe even a DH if they lose Martinez. The bullpen shopping could take a while, lasting potentially into the Winter Meetings, as could the courtship on top hitters. Then again, the last time Martinez was a free agent, he signed with the Tigers before Thanksgiving. Hunter signed in early November two years ago.
- The trade market is more likely to get going in a couple weeks, when general managers gather in Phoenix for the annual GM meetings (Nov. 10-13). In recent years, that has been the venue where trade targets and potential matches become clear, since it’s the first opportunity of the offseason for decision-makers to meet to face-to-face.