Notes: Ilitch, Avila talk future; new jerseys?

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT – Neither Tigers chairman/CEO Christopher Ilitch nor general manager Al Avila provided much detail on the Tigers’ offseason spending plans. But both said there’s a plan on how they’ll ramp up the team’s financial resources and make upgrades to the roster in a push to vault back into playoff contention.

“At the beginning of this process, we had a plan, and we’ve consistently executed against that plan,” Ilitch said Friday. “It really started with a lot of off-field changes that we need to make in our organization. Al has talked about those, I have talked about those a lot in the past, whether it be upgraded in the areas of our scouting and drafting and analytics and player development. We’re starting to see a lot of progress from those efforts manifest now. And where we go from here, there’s a plan.”

Part of that plan was their gradual shedding of long-term contract commitments. The Tigers have three players under guaranteed contracts for next season: Miguel Cabrera ($32 million), Jonathan Schoop ($7.5 million) and Robbie Grossman ($5 million).

Those commitments don’t include arbitration-eligible players, led by Jeimer Candelario, whose second-half surge has powered him into Detroit’s long-term plans.

“[Manager] A.J. [Hinch] and I have talked about Jeimer many times, and for sure he’s a guy that we would count on here going into the future,” Avila said Friday. “He’s done a great job, and in the second half, he’s stepped it up even moreso, even power-wise. So he’s looking at those arbitration numbers, for sure.”

One other specific Avila offered going forward was that their upgrades would probably be a multi-year effort, rather than one big splurge.

“It’s going to depend on which players are going to be available and what deals we’re going to be able to make. There might be trades also available,” Avila said. “At this stage, really, we know what our necessities are, and we’ll attack it at the right time. Can’t really disclose everything that we’re looking at, that we’re planning for. Just rest assured that we’re going to try to improve this team for next year and make a big push. We feel we’re very close to being a playoff contending team. …

“I can’t tell you that it’ll all be done within one offseason, because I think it’ll be a gradual buildup.”

That buildup appears to have the backing of ownership.

“We want to be a playoff team. We want to be a contender. We ultimately want to win a championship,” Ilitch said. “So a big part of my job is to make sure our club has the resources to do that, and I’ve said repeatedly over the years that our club will have the resources necessary to execute our plan.”

New throwback jerseys coming?
Aside from changes to the Old English D, the Tigers have generally had the same jerseys for more than 20 years, and much longer than that with their classic home whites. But Paul Lukas, whose Uni Watch column and blog has chronicled sports jerseys and logos since 1999, reported earlier this week that the Tigers have been doing online focus group surveys on past jerseys, including their road grays from 1984 and 1968.

Also part of the survey, Lukas reported, was a gray version of a Detroit Stars jersey that the Tigers have worn in past years during their Negro Leagues tribute weekend, as well as a navy blue jersey that hasn’t been worn yet.

The news doesn’t mean the Tigers have major jersey changes planned. Rather, the focus group survey is likely an effort to gauge fan sentiment and preferences if the Tigers decide in the future to do a special event jersey, or even a third jersey. The Tigers would approach any such addition carefully; their introduction of a navy blue alternate jersey for Sunday home games in 1995 ended up being a one-time appearance after team president John McHale Jr. and manager Sparky Anderson believed it didn’t fit the team’s image.

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