What Detroit Tigers’ Christopher Ilitch thinks about spending $300 million for one player

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch ordered a ham and cheese omelet Thursday at the Tiny Boxwoods restaurant in Houston.

The person sitting across from him: Carlos Correa, a free-agent shortstop who is expected to command at least $30 million per year and $300 million total (but probably more like $340 million) on the open market. The Tigers, in dire need of a shortstop, are interested in his services.

“We want winners here,” Hinch said Monday, as the Tigers introduced starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million contract. “We want to win. That’s the reason we’re here today. That’s the reason we made a transaction on the first day of the offseason in getting (catcher) Tucker Barnhart.

“There’s a ton of interest in coming to Detroit by a variety of players. That’s because I think people are aware our trajectory is going in the right direction. Great conversations, not just the one that was photographed.”

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But what does Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch, the man signing the checks, think about the $300 million situation? Is there any chance he allows general manager Al Avila to make that kind of purchase?

“I would defer to Al in terms of what he and AJ believe our organization needs to accomplish our goals and execute our plan,” Ilitch said. “The resources are going to be there.

“I know Al, AJ and myself are very aligned on making sure that when we talk about contracts and new contracts through free agency, or even trades, that we need to be mindful. Our goal is not to be good one time but to be good over the course of time. We really are shooting for sustainable success and competitive baseball over time. We’re going to be mindful of that as we look at contracts going forward.”

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So, here’s what Avila said about spending $300 million.

“We said we were going to take a measured approach to the offseason,” Avila said. “We’re going to sign players to make this team better. Obviously, we want to get into the playoffs. But we have to be careful as we move forward.

“Not one player is going to make us a winner. We have to make sure we can field a good 26-man roster. It’s going to be a measured process. We’re going to be very careful in how we do it.”

This offseason, the Tigers have added two players in Rodriguez and Barnhart. After trading with the Cincinnati Reds to acquire Barnhart, the Tigers picked up his $7.5 million team option for the 2022 season.

“We’ll have all the resources we need as a ballclub to ensure we continue to improve and ultimately to be playoff contenders and World Series champions,” Ilitch said. “That’s our goal. Al has had a plan from Day 1, and he’s been executing his plan very, very well.”

The 27-year-old Correa hit .279 with 26 home runs, 92 RBIs, 75 walks and 116 strikeouts in 2021. He won his first Gold Glove at shortstop and carried the Astros to their third World Series appearance in the past five years. He has 79 games of playoff experience. (Correa played five of his seven seasons in Houston with Hinch as his manager.)

“I’m not going to get into what’s sustainable and what’s not sustainable, and what’s a good deal and what’s a bad deal,” Avila said. “Every club will make its decision on their own payroll. I really won’t make a comment on that. In our situation, shortstop is a need. Quite frankly, one big splash does not win you the offseason. It’s making some smart moves along the way and putting together a good 26-man roster.”

Along with Correa, the Tigers remain interested in other premier shortstops: Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Baez. They’ve also considered Chris Taylor, who plays outfield, shortstop, second base and third base.

The Tigers have discussed trading for a shortstop, if needed.

“It’s possible,” Avila said. “It’s the hardest way of doing it. But it’s possible.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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