Tigers and the looming arbitration deadline

The Tuesday deadline for teams to offer their departing free agents arbitration is approaching. The Tigers have three cases that are garnering some attention in Placido Polanco, Brandon Lyon, and Fernando Rodney.

Placido Polanco

The Polanco situation is the most delicate. The Tigers have Scott Sizemore ready to take over second base (provided his ankle heals in time). Polanco is also a Type A free agent meaning that if the Tigers offer arbitration and Polanco signs elsewhere the Tigers would net a first (or second) round pick from the signing team as well as a supplemental pick in between the first and second rounds.

Polanco is likely to garner enough attention and come at an affordable enough price that he could net himself a multiyear contract, except for that pesky compensation pick. I would be surprised if many teams would be willing to sacrifice a top pick for the right to sign a 34 year old second baseman who doesn’t hit for power and doesn’t take a lot of walks. Polanco’s value is tied specifically to his batting average and his defensive ability. Both are items that are at risk of decline given his age.

Then there is the payroll issue. While I don’t buy the fire sale talk I do buy the theory that the Tigers have limited financial flexibility. Polanco and his likely $5-6 million salary aren’t prohibitive in general, but when there is a replacement who stands to make $400,000 that is a sizable cost.

Much like the Edgar Renteria situation last year, the Tigers aren’t going to gamble on Polanco signing somewhere else to get the draft picks. If the Tigers offer him arbitration it’s because they want to bring him back, not to get the compensatory picks.

It isn’t Dave Dombrowski’s pattern to offer just to get draft picks, and he hasn’t rolled the dice like that in his Detroit tenure. The Tigers did receive a sandwich pick for Jamie Walker, but he was signed by another team before the deadline.

The relievers

The cases of Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney are considerably simpler. Both are Type B free agents meaning that it is only a supplemental pick the Tigers would earn and the signing team wouldn’t have to surrender anything. An offer of arbitration by the Tigers wouldn’t cut into the market value for either.

Lyon has expressed his desire for a multi-year deal. The Tigers would probably love to have him on a one year deal, but may pursue a 2 year deal with him as well. He likely wouldn’t make significantly more than he did this past season, and while I’m not big on spending big money on the bullpen and I think “veteran presence” is often over-valued, there is something to be said for the stability that Lyon would bring. In other words I fully expect Lyon to get an arbitration offer. There really isn’t a worst case here (unless the Tigers sign him and he gets injured).

Fernando Rodney on the other hand I would expect to be a long shot. I’ve been a Rodney supporter because when he’s healthy he can be an effective pitcher. The trouble is he’s only been healthy 2 of the last 5 seasons, and even then he isn’t a consistently dominant pitcher. There’s a thought that some team will see the big save total and ignore the fact that he walked quite a few and had pretty shaky peripherals. But other teams have access to all the same information so even with the save percentage I doubt he’ll be able to parlay that into a big contract.

The Tigers may view Rodney as a fall back plan for Lyon, but I don’t know that the Tigers have $10 million to spend on the pair of bullpen arms.


Because of Dombrowski’s track record of not offering just to get picks, and the Tigers financial friction I’m not confident that the team will offer arbitration to more than Brandon Lyon. If they do offer it to Rodney and Polanco, it is with the intent to try and sign them. Not to just pick up extra draft picks.

For others thoughts on the Tigers arbitration decisions check out’:

12 thoughts on “Tigers and the looming arbitration deadline”

  1. Wouldn’t offering arb. to Polly still be worth considering as he would probably still be tradable if he accepted. As well as he may reject the offer based on the fact that like 15 teams or so have their first round pick protected and those teams may be willing to give up a second round pick for him … also there is all this trade talk and he may not be willing to return to to a team that could trade a lot of its best parts and no longer be ‘competitive’ or he (or his agent) may just realize that accepting would then make him part of trade talks for the rest of the offseason …. I think there are a lot of factors to consider here and at best it could pay off big with a 1st rounder and a supplmental pick

  2. Good rundown. I think your logic makes sense – offer Lyon and let Polanco and Rodney walk away. Good players who contributed some good memories over many years. Plus they were both simply fun to watch.

    I know many Tiger fans would disagree with that assessment of Rodney, but after having Todd Jones for many years I think I’ve become accustomed to closers who seem to make a habit of maximizing drama before converting the save. What bugged me with both Rodney and Jones was whenever Leyland brought them in in non-save situations…it rarely seemed to work.

  3. I understand that DD’s record is one of not offering arb to get the picks, but I really can’t see the downside to offering all three. I don’t think any of them would give a second thought to accepting; they all seem to be after a multi-year deal. Even of one or more of them were to, I think that they all have enough value that they could bring back a C- or B-level prospect from somebody in a trade once they are signed to a one-year deal. Unless there is a rule about trading guys post-arb. I really don’t know.

    I think the best idea for the bullpen is to offer both Lyon and Rodney a 2/$8 (three the first year, five the second) deal. Tell them that the first to accept is the 2010 closer, and the other guy is out. If they both opt for the free market, you can certainly offer both arb with no doubts of their intention.

      1. We should offer Polanco a FA contract to play SS, not many teams can compete with us on that offer.

        I would be surprised if Rodney would reject the arbitration knowing he has that high save pct to rely on when presenting his valuation to the arbitration committee.

  4. I’m surprised we didn’t offer to Everett–unless there is a downside I’m missing. I can’t see him getting more than bottom-level starter money in arbitration. And it’s not exactly a thriving SS market out there–case in point, Boston’s “hey Dustin, ever think of playing SS?” maneuver…

  5. On the other hand, word out here on the west coast is that SF is desperate to move a certain SS-playing Ham Sandwich…

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