Despite current success, aging Tigers roster jeopardizes future of team

The Detroit Tigers have made the playoffs each of the past four years, and have unquestionably been one of the most successful baseball franchises in the last five years.

All of this could be soon overshadowed by what I think will be an extended period of mediocrity as the team continues to make poor financial decisions regarding some of their older players. As a result, the team is manned by an aging core of players and an injury-ridden Miguel Cabrera.

On Wednesday, the Tigers made a news flash by resigning their designated hitter, Victor Martinez, to a four-year contract worth around $70 million.

This is exciting for Tigers fans for many reasons. Martinez is coming off one of his best years at the plate. He batted .335, smashed 32 home runs, drove in 103 runs and led the American league with a .409 on-base percentage.

Here is why it’s bad: Martinez turns 36 in December. While his job in Detroit is simply to hit the ball and not to steal bases or even play defense any more than maybe once a month, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that his numbers will drop significantly.

While many may argue that he did as well as he did last year at 35, it’s important to remember that this season was likely the best we’ll see from V-Mart. That is why a four-year deal does not make sense.

Of course, it has been well-documented since the middle of the 2014 campaign that V-Mart would be looking for a four-year deal. This is why the Tigers should have not offered such a deal, and instead let Martinez sign with another team. This is an unpopular opinion, but sometimes the right decisions are unpopular, and the wrong decisions are popular – just look at the contract extension given to former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

Verlander was the best player in baseball in 2011, going 24-5 and shocking the baseball world by being the first pitcher to ever win the MVP award. Over the last two years, the Tigers’ ace has totaled 28 wins, but has also combined for 24 losses. This is a sign up Verlander’s regression from being the best, to simply a good pitcher. Being just a good pitcher isn’t good enough when you have a 10-year, $219 million contract. The 10-year deal given to Verlander was just another example of where the Tigers went overboard. Taking a page from the New York Yankees, Detroit looked to buy itself a championship by committing so much money to Verlander and Martinez, but the buck doesn’t stop there.

Sometimes the worst deal you make is the one that you don’t make. Heading into last year, the Tigers had the most valuable trade piece in baseball: Max Scherzer. Coming off his own Cy Young season, Scherzer had one season left on his contract.

The Tigers had three options. They could trade him to get some valuable pieces that would both strengthen the team while also getting younger, give him a contract extension or keep him and let him become a free agent at the end of the year, where everybody would be battling to sign him. Giving him a contract extension wasn’t an option as Scherzer declined the alleged $100 million plus deal that Detroit offered him. The team decided to keep him for the year, which amounted to a three-game sweep in the first-round of the playoffs.

The point is, the Tigers should have traded Scherzer, received a great deal and built for the future. Now, the future included the likes of an aging roster headed by Martinez, Verlander and Cabrera. Common sense suggests they will regress this season, and with so much money tied up between the three, the other positions will be manned by players lacking the ability to make up for the regression.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 17th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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