Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
As has been mentioned many times now, the Tigers have no interest in pursuing either Jarrod Washburn or Aubrey Huff, so we'll just get that out of the way and state they won't receive arbitration. The focus for offering arbitration is really on the big three of this offseason; Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney, and Brandon Lyon. Given Polanco's high salary demands, as well as what he might earn in arbitration should he accept, it's unlikely the Tigers are looking to bring Polanco back for another season, given his declining production along with having a big-league-ready option in Scott Sizemore. A high pricetag coupled with the fact that he's a Type A free agent and would require any team signing him to forfeit their first round pick (a steep price for any club), and it's hard to see the Tigers making a case to offer Polanco, so they won't. Lyon and Rodney on the other hand . . . both are coming off strong seasons, and both are Type B free agents (so the only compensation the Tigers would receive should the players sign elsewhere would be a sandwich pick and the signing team would forfeit nothing). So, the only real risk in offering arbitration is that the player would accept, when the Tigers don't want them to. And to be quite honest, I don't think the Tigers would complain too much to bring either player back (though I don't think both returning is likely), so I think it's a wise move to offer both salary arbitration. If the Tigers want them back, they'll have ample opportunity to bring them back, and if they don't, a new team won't be prevented from doing so by draft pick compensation concerns.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
The annual arbitration question is always a fun one around baseball; well, that is unless you are a fan of the Detroit Tigers. While there is always plenty of speculation and wish-casting that the Tigers offer arbitration to this or that player, there is rarely any activity. I think that trend continues this year. The three big topics of conversation are Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, and Placido Polanco. Those three players have lengthy lists of pros and cons to offering arbitration, and the answer to the question what 'should' the Tigers do, and what 'will' the Tigers do, are very different in many people's eyes. Starting with Rodney, while he was very good in 2009, his track record of consistency is non-existent, and thanks to Age-Gate, he will enter the 2010 season as a 33-year old. That, combined with what is likely to be a fair salary increase next season, and I don't think the Tigers should or will offer arbitration to Rodney, despite the likelihood that he declines. Lyon is a bit different case; a versatile reliever entering next season at 30-years of age, and while he will likely receive a raise, his salary will remain reasonable given his role and value to the team. If the Tigers are interested in bringing him back, offering arbitration could simply buy them additional time to negotiate a new contract, possibly for more than one year. In the end, I think the Tigers want more say in his salary in 2010 than what they will get via arbitration, and while I think they should, they will not offer arbitration to Lyon. Polanco is the most complicated of the three hotly debated players. People in and around Detroit have (rightly so) fallen in love with Polanco's batting average and defense. The problem here, there is a younger, much cheaper option waiting in the wings with a very strong possibility that he can provide more offensively, and the other problem is Polanco is on the cliff of what is likely to be a precipitous decline in performance. We have already seen the beginning of such a decline in 2009, and I fear we may see that trend continue next year. Given the trouble Orlando Hudson (a player of at least equal value to Polanco) had finding a home last winter because he was saddled with Type A status, necessitating the relinquishing of a first round pick to sign him, it is not difficult to see a scenario where Polanco accepts arbitration and the Tigers are not granted the benefit of salary relief or turning over the roster at a place where it is easily done. I firmly believe that the Tigers should not offer arbitration to Polanco, and I believe they will do just that. Given the above, it could be a pretty uneventful day on the Tigers front, Tuesday.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
Of the free agents the Tigers have, the team has already made it known that they won't be pursuing either Jarrod Washburn or Aubrey Huff, so they won't be offered arbitration, and although they're interested in retaining Adam Everett, there is no need to offer arbitration to him. That leaves Placido Polanco, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, all of whom are free agents that bring draft compensation. Lyon and Rodney are both Type B's, while Polanco is Type A, meaning that the latter also would fetch a signing team's draft pick as well as a sandwich pick should he leave after rejecting an arbitration offer. With no clear alternatives to replace their late-inning roles, I believe Lyon and Rodney will be offered arbitration, which they will turn down since their Type B status will not scare off other teams that are interested in them. That being said, I think the Tigers will be successful in retaining at least one of them who would then become the closer. In Polanco's case, I believe the Tigers will not offer arbitration. First, the Tigers have his heir apparent in Scott Sizemore, and although he broke his ankle in the AFL, he should be ready for Spring Training. Polanco also had a poor first half, and should the Tigers offer arbitration, there is a very good chance that he would accept, as interested teams would balk at having to forfeit a draft choice for his services. To be frank, the $6-plus million Polanco would get in arbitration is money that could be spent to fill another hole, and Dave Dombrowski's M.O. has been to cut ties with players if they didn't fit into the team's plans regardless of draft compensation. One other thing to remember is should the Tigers lose all three players and gain the four extra draft picks, that's roughly an extra $3-plus million the team has to budget for the draft, and that's if they stick to slot. While getting more picks isn't a bad thing, it could cause the Tigers to stay away from tougher signs and stick to more signable players. Polanco has had a great run with the Tigers, but the time has come for he and the Tigers to part ways.
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