The Detroit Tigers hit Opening Day with the fourth highest payroll in baseball ($198,593,000). After dropping 11 of 12 games early this month, many were frustrated with how the team was performing, especially considering said payroll. Now, after turning things around and winning eight of their last 10, the team seems to be trending in a much better direction.
Although there are a couple of monster contracts on the team (Justin Verlander‘s $28 million a year until 2019, Miguel Cabrera‘s $28 million or more per year until at least 2023), there are plenty of contracts on the team that are currently quite valuable. Here’s a look at the top five valued contracts currently on the team.
Closer – Francisco Rodriguez
2016 salary: $7.5 million (9th highest among all closers in MLB)
2016 stats: 17 2/3 innings, 7 earned runs (3.71 ERA), 16 strikeouts, 6 walks, 1.189 WHIP, 14 saves, 1 blown save
The most recent player to join the 400 save club, Rodriguez has been quite reliable for the Tigers at the closer position. Most times, you are going to have to pay a decent amount for dependability at the closer position, but the Tigers may have sneakily found a bargain in Rodriguez. Outside of blowing a three run lead (and a save) on Opening Day, he has been perfect in his save opportunities. Currently tied for the American League lead in saves with 14, Rodriguez is under contract with the Tigers until the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Center fielder – Cameron Maybin
2016 salary: $8.1 million (9th among all center fielders)
2016 stats: 9 games, .545 batting average, 1 home run, 6 RBIs, .636 slugging percentage, 4 stolen bases
I get it, it’s still early. Especially so for Maybin. But, after a nine game sample of what he is offering at the plate (and in the field, for that matter) these days, I’m excited to see what he can do in a full season. It’s certainly not realistic to expect him to maintain such a high level of play throughout the rest of the year, but a highly productive bat is certainly within the realm of possibility. A range factor of 2.67 (compared to a 2.68 for Mike Trout) shows that his defensive ability is towards the top of the league, as well. With the top contracts for center fielders topping $20 million a year, Maybin’s contract is extremely valuable at this point. He is under contract until the end of the 2017 season.
Right fielder – J.D. Martinez
2016 salary: $6.75 million (14th among all right fielders)
2016 stats: .261 batting average, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 19 walks, 47 strikeouts
After the Houston Astros released Martinez in March of 2014 and told him he “wasn’t a fit for their club”, he quickly found a home with the Tigers. A .315 average and 23 home runs in his first season with Detroit was quite welcomed also. Since then, J.D. has taken a full time claim on right field with the Tigers. He signed a two year extension ($6.75 million this season, $11.75 million next season) with Detroit in February, and figures to really cash in upon the conclusion of the bridge deal upon the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Shortstop – Jose Iglesias
2016 salary: $2.1 million (21st among all shortstops)
2016 stats: .223 batting average, 1 home run, 9 RBIs, 9 walks, 20 strikeouts
Don’t let his numbers at the plate so far this year fool you. Iglesias is quite capable of handling the bat. After missing the entire 2014 season with stress fractures in both legs, Iglesias returned in 2015 in phenomenal fashion. He finished the year with a .300 average in 120 games (416 at bats). One of the flashiest defenders in the game, he has a career fielding percentage of .982, and a range factor of 4.02 (.985 and 4.91 for Troy Tulowitzki at $20 million a year). This is the final season of Iglesias’s contract, and he becomes arbitration eligible after this season.
Third baseman – Nick Castellanos
2016 salary: $536,000 (31st among all third basemen)
2016 stats: .337 batting average, 9 home runs, 31 RBIs, 9 walks, 38 strikeouts
Looking for an early candidate for “Most Improved Player”? Look no further than Nick Castellanos. A career .257 hitter coming into the season, he has come out of the gates in a big way this year. Providing support for the hitters in the middle part of the lineup, Castellanos is not only getting it done with the bat. A career .959 fielding percentage (2.54 range factor) compares very nicely to the likes of David Wright‘s career mark of .955 (2.61 range factor), but Wright makes $20 million a year. Castellanos’s current contract is up at the completion of this year, when he becomes arbitration eligible.