Monday, November 3, 2014

Detroit and free agents

The Detroit Tigers have some serious decisions to make in this off season regarding their roster. It's possible, perhaps even probable they'll lose ace pitcher Max Scherzer and designated hitter Victor Martinez to free agency. Both had stellar years in 2014, and both will be looking to parlay that into multi-year gazillion dollar contracts starting in 2015. Aging outfielder Torii Hunter is also a free agent, may retire, and there's no guarantee the Tigers will even WANT him back even if he doesn't.

The Tigers' laundry list doesn't stop there. They need an every day center fielder, at least one more left handed bat with some pop in their line up and, oh my, the bullpen. They're the rabbit ears on top of a brand new 60 inch high def TV. Let's just say an upgrade in service is in order.

Yet while many names of replacement players continue to be bandied about, an underlying question nobody wants to talk about remains.

For a free agent to sign with Detroit, he has to WANT to come. And that's not necessarily a guarantee these days. While the Tigers have pulled off some blockbuster trades in the last few years to land star players (see Ian Kinsler, recently David Price, and even Scherzer a few years back -- though Mad Max was only considered a promising prospect at the time), they're not exactly known for landing true free agents. Like the Yankees, Bosox, Dodgers, etc. Has it been a matter of money? Likely not. Owner Mike Ilitch has proven himself to be no cheapskate when it comes to getting good players for his teams. Strategy? The jury's still out on that one.

Or could it be some players just don't want to come to Detroit? After all, the city itself isn't exactly a tropical paradise. Most major league players grew up in warm climates and, by their standards, it's cold in Detroit when the season starts, and before it ends. That's not even to mention the off-season. Do you think some guy from Florida, California, or the Dominican Republic would have the least desire to build or buy a home in the Detroit area so he can suffer through a few months of sub-freezing temperatures and 6-7 feet of snow?

Consider the Detroit Red Wings. Not long ago, most players around the league would have jumped at the chance to wear the Winged Wheel. Detroit was "Hockeytown" and definitely a preferred destination. The Stanley Cup was a possibility. Not any more. In fact, over the last couple years a few star free agents have taken less money from other teams than what the Wings offered them. That's a tacit slap in the face.

But let's get real. Walk a few blocks from Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings play, or even the Comerica Park home of the Tigers -- and one will find themself in a high crime-ridden urban war zone. Good grief, the city itself remains in bankruptcy, and continues to offer far more blight and outright danger than entertainment.

Free agents aren't the dumb jocks they used to be. Though the almighty big bucks remain the driving force, it's not the only aspect in play as to where they decide to sign. They have the means to scout these sort of things out before they commit to a city for the next several years.

The moral of the story? Just because there are players "available" that might plug the holes the Tigers will likely find themselves with doesn't guarantee those same players will have an interest in coming to Detroit.

For their local talking heads and scribes to assume otherwise is nothing more than hubris.

We'll see how it plays out.....

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