Traverse City Record-Eagle

Columns

December 23, 2012

Dennis Chase: This is not like the old days for the Tigers

The Detroit Tigers made Torri Hunter and Anibal Sanchez very rich men this holiday season.

Some suggest the Tigers overpaid to acquire Hunter and retain Sanchez. Time will tell. Hunter will earn $26 million over the next two years, Sanchez $80 over the next five.

But those kind of numbers have become the going rate in baseball these days. Journeyman outfielder Cody Ross just agreed to a three-year, $26 million deal with Arizona. Another journeyman, pitcher Edwin Jackson, just netted $52 million over four years in a deal with the Cubs. I'd rather have Hunter and Sanchez.

If you're a Tigers fan, debating options like that is a blessing. Owner Mike Ilitch has deep pockets and is willing to spend to put a good product on the field. He did the same with the Red Wings before the National Hockey League implemented a salary cap.

It was not always this way for the Tigers. Remember when the team, under a previous owner, let outfielder Kirk Gibson walk during free agency after the 1987 season? Lance Parrish and Jack Morris eventually followed.

Even when Ilitch purchased the team in 1992, he did not immediately spend big bucks on his newest entity. He seemed more financially inclined to spend on the Red Wings, a sound investment at the time, and on building Comerica Park.

There was a 12-year stretch, starting with the 1994 season and ending with the 2005 campaign, where the Tigers never finished above .500. In fact, there were some years they weren't even over .400. Fans had little to cheer. The Tigers had a farm system ranked near the bottom in baseball, and no wherewithal to sign good free agents to bolster a woeful major league roster.

So, after going through that, this is now refreshing, deciding the merits of signing Hunter and Sanchez.

I suspect Dave Dombrowski, the team president, is not done. I think he'll continue to tweak his roster, possibly addressing issues at shortstop and in the bullpen.

The Tigers lost a potential trade partner Saturday when the Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly agreed to trade closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston. There had been rumors of a possible deal for Hanrahan involving pitcher Rick Porcello.

If, in fact, Porcello is on the market, I expect Dombrowski to shop wisely. Starting pitchers, especially those as young and experienced as Porcello, have great value. Just look at what Sanchez, a sub-.500 career pitcher, commanded.

It might behoove Dombrowski to even wait until spring training to dangle Porcello. By then, there might even be more suitors and it would give the Tigers additional time to make sure Max Scherzer is 100 percent after experiencing shoulder fatigue late last season.

With hockey on hiatus, and the Pistons and Lions out of contention, the Tigers remain the story in professional sports here as we get ready to enter 2013.

And they're certainly giving us something to talk about this off-season.

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