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Tigers' selloff highlights lackluster meetings

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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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INDIANAPOLIS

Twice, Jim Leyland managed championship teams that were torn apart because of economics.
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Detroit was supposed to be different. Now, that's not saying that the Tigers of 2010 are about to become the Pirates of 1993 or, heaven forbid, the Marlins of 1998. During the winter meetings, however, the message was delivered loud and clear — the Tigers are upside down with their payroll, and they are facing a painful time ahead. Now this shouldn't be a total surprise. The economy is a mess, and nowhere is the mess bigger than in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. But before the Tigers try blaming the economy, they need to look in the mirror and accept the blame for their own actions — and overreactions. The Pirates were stripped by free agency after three consecutive division titles — 1990-92 — which led Leyland to bail for Florida, where, thanks to then owner H. Wayne Huizenga, the checkbook was opened, a world championship was purchased in 1997 and then, before the parade even ended, the team was torn apart on orders from Huizenga, who didn't feel the champagne offset the red ink on the ledger. And after a brief and disappointing year in Colorado, followed by six years as a consultant in St. Louis, Leyland returned to the dugout with the Tigers in 2006, and returned a fading Tigers franchise to championship, guiding Detroit to the World Series that year. In the aftermath, the Tigers have not only signed multi-year contracts with members of the '06 team, but they also acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida prior to the 2008 season, and immediately gave them lucrative contracts.
Not that it matters. The Tigers haven't been back to the postseason since. They did finish second in the AL Central in 2007 and 2009, fading down the stretch and coughing up the division title to Minnesota. They finished fifth in between. And now the Tigers are paying the price for their overzealous spending. The contracts make it impossible to deal the likes of Magglio Ordonez, who is guaranteed $18 million in 2010; Cabrera, who has six years and $126 million left on his contract; Carlos Guillen, due $26 million the next two years; Willis, who will pick up $12 million in 2010, and Nate Robertson, guaranteed $12 million in 2010. So where do the Tigers find breathing room? They have to give up arguably their best and most popular player, outfielder Curtis Granderson, in a three-team deal that sent him to the Yankees and All-Star pitcher Edwin Jackson to Arizona, and brought the Tigers a couple of pitchers with mechanical concerns and bullpen futures — right-hander Max Scherzer and lefty Daniel Schlereth — from the Diamondbacks, and prospects Phil Coke, a left-handed pitcher, and outfielder Austin Jackson from the Yankees. But then that's modern-day baseball. Deals are done for dollar reasons. The price of doing business has risen to the point that one year a team rejoices about securing a player on a long-term basis, and the next year it's trying to unload the contract. It is why Texas sent Kevin Millwood to Baltimore, along with his $12 million salary and then tries to convince itself that it saved money and filled the rotation void by signing oft-injured Rich Harden, whose history of being a 100-pitch pitcher flies in the face of team president Nolan Ryan's desire for rotation durability. It is why Houston is trying to claim it can rebound from a miserable season to contend because it took a garage-sale mentality, acquiring reliever Matt Lindstrom and signing free agents Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz, hoping quantity will overcome a lack of quality. It is why agent Scott Boras is picking up his public challenges for the St. Louis owners, hoping he can get them to cave to potential public pressures and beef up their signing efforts of outfielder Matt Holliday, who isn't finding much of a market with the Yankees having acquired Granderson and the Angels having decided not to get involved with Boras clients again. Face it. Holliday rejected Colorado's $18 million offer, which is why he was traded a year ago. Boras has, after all, put Holliday in the class of a Mark Teixeira, which, translated, means he's looking for something similar to the eight-year, $180 million deal that the Yankees gave Teixeira last offseason. Problem is, the Yankees aren't interested in Holliday. The Angels aren't interested in any Boras client. The Cardinals are hesitant to go too far in their offers in light of a pending negotiation with Albert Pujols that would undoubtedly be affected by whatever Holliday received. Other than sacrificing Holliday to the mess that is the Mets, Boras' only choices are to create a public relations campaign on his client's behalf in St. Louis or hope that the Angels steal free agent Jason Bay away from Boston and the Red Sox decide to take a deep breath and turn to Holliday to fill what would be a hole in left field.
Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, Tigers, Yankees, Rangers, Pirates, Cardinals, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Kevin Millwood, Albert Pujols, Brandon Lyon, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Rich Harden, Edwin Jackson, Matt Holliday, Curtis Granderson, Matt Lindstrom, Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Daniel Schlereth

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