The Tigers made the agreement official at 1PM press conference this afternoon, introducing Ivan Rodriguez to the media. Rodriguez signed a 4-year deal worth $40 million, the largest contract in Tiger history. The deal also includes a club option for a 5th year, including a sizable buyout if the option year is not picked up. The Tigers also took measures to protect themselves, including an ‘out-clause' which allows the Tigers to void the contract after the 2005 season if Rodriguez spends five or more weeks on the Disabled List because of a lower back injury in either 2004 or 2005. The Tigers can also void the deal after 2006 because of the same condition.
While the high activity of the offseason has generated some interest in the Tigers, none of the signings were especially noteworthy. None of the players really stood out as big acquisitions, players that would make someone come to the ballpark solely to see him play. Rodriguez puts the Tigers into a whole a new arena, sporting a potential Hall-of-Famer who people will pay money to see. Rodriguez coupled with the addition of OF Rondell White suddenly takes the Tigers heart of the order (Rodriguez, White, and current Tiger DH Dmitri Young) from laughable to formidable, something that would have been considered almost impossible just a few months ago.
Pudge's credentials are endless, but possibility none are more noteworthy than his NLCS MVP award last fall as well as the World Series ring he earned shortly after. While Josh Beckett's amazing performance cannot be overlooked, many point to Rodriguez's leadership and clutch hitting as a main reason why the Marlins captured their second World Series in seven years. The Tigers believe Rodriguez those leadership skills can help bring along some of the young players currently in Detroit's lineup, as well as help the production of the pitching staff Rodriguez will begin to work with.
The signing of Rodriguez more-than-likely completes the Tigers offseason activity. There's still the possibility of adding a Pitcher to a minor league contract, but all in all the Tigers have concluded a successful offseason with a bang, adding a 10-time All Star to the roster.
For the first time in years, the Tigers have a marquee player on the roster – and a player that actually wants to be here (unlike OF Juan Gonzalez and his miserable 2000 season). Rodriguez brings another bat to the lineup, a great presence behind the plate, more fans to the stadium; and most importantly, in a broader sense, Rodriguez signifies a new era of Tiger baseball – and the return of major league baseball to Detroit.