Henning: Count on Tigers keeping David Price
After absorbing the Lions' legendary ways in London, and some bipolar drama crafted by Michigan and Michigan State's football souls, a few baseball matters are worth visiting as the World Series approaches its finale.
The Tigers likely will hang onto David Price ahead of 2015
The Tigers paid full retail for Price in July with a couple of objectives in mind:
They wanted to win this year's World Series, a pursuit some might have noticed didn't quite meet Detroit's aspirations.
The Tigers also wanted protection in 2015 against losing Max Scherzer to free agency, which was all but assured last March when Scherzer decided the open market would be his happier financial path.
There have been suspicions the Dodgers will try to trade for Price now that Price's old front-office boss with the Rays, Andrew Friedman, is running the National League's most payroll-oblivious, most free-spending, contender.
This imagined raid by L.A. makes sense on a couple of levels.
Price would be a staggering complement to baseball's best left-hander, Clayton Kershaw, on a team that probably doesn't need a huge lift to crack next year's World Series.
The Tigers are also staring at whopping payroll in 2015 and owe hundreds of millions of dollars, long-term, to Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. They might want to commit Price's money (arbitration should put Price's 2015 salary at $16 million or higher) to other areas that need help, which in the Tigers' case can include bullpen, outfield, bench, and maybe designated hitter if Victor Martinez moves elsewhere.
The problem, of course, is losing Scherzer and Price would leave the Tigers with two scary voids replacement pitchers aren't about to match. Any backup plan could make Detroit's rotation in 2015 no better than the third- or fourth-best such group in a division the Tigers can at least think about winning if Price hangs in Motown.
Trade talks can always heat up. If the Dodgers are determined to get Price, with the supposition they could sign him long-term, they might make Tigers front-office steward Dave Dombrowski the kind of deal he can't ignore.
But realistically, Price stays in Detroit in 2015. The Tigers probably will have no better luck signing him for the long haul than they had with Scherzer, but marching him to the mound every five days is a sturdy way to begin a new season. And any thought the Dodgers would pay a ransom sufficient to bring Price to L.A., at least ahead of next autumn, seems improbable.
Victor Martinez's agent wants four years, which figures
Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com, who is as knowledgeable about agents and their desires as any reporter in American, wrote last week that V-Mart's allies are thinking in terms of a four-year deal for a man who in 2014 had numbers not generally achievable for a 35-year-old hitter: 32 home runs, 103 RBIs, .335 batting average, as well as a league-high on-base percentage (.409) and OPS (.974).
If the Tigers were run by any owner other than Mike Ilitch it would be a stretch to believe Detroit would re-up with Martinez, who in December turns 36. But this, as we know, is not any owner. He likes his stars. He always wanted his prized Red Wings locked in. He ordered that his crown-jewel Tigers (Cabrera, Verlander) also be retained at exorbitant prices.
And knowing Ilitch's love for good hitting and for what Martinez regularly delivered, it would surprise just about no one if he explicitly told Dombrowski: Sign him -- whatever it costs.
This is going to be interesting and risky market theater, the Martinez negotiations. Most of the folks who buy tickets at Comerica Park will cheer any new deal with Martinez.
At least ahead of 2015 they'll approve. When the wheels fall off, as they inevitably do with hitters -- even one as astonishingly skilled as Martinez -- new realities set in.
But that might be a backseat thought for fans, as well as for an owner, who won't appreciate Cabrera striding to home plate in 2015 without a certain switch-hitter limbering in the on-deck circle.
What to do about Torii Hunter?
Any day now we should get a sense from Dombrowski how the Tigers will approach some supposedly fine-line calls about their 2015 roster.
It's a fair question to wonder if Detroit might want to sign Hunter to a modest one-year deal, which he has said he would happily accept, even if the word "modest" is mine, not his.
More and more, it's difficult to imagine that Dombrowski can do it. On one hand it makes sense when Steven Moya probably isn't ready for regular work in right field early in 2015. By almost all accounts, Moya will need as much as a full season at Triple A. So, the idea of Hunter as caretaker has some credence.
But the Tigers are looking at so many tough payroll calls it seems unlikely Hunter will be back. Unless, of course, the idea of a truly "modest" contract is a thought at least privately shared by Hunter.