Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch sets record straight: He never voted against luxury tax hike

Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Christopher Ilitch, the Tigers chairman and CEO, came loaded for bear this morning.

Dressed in a Tigers’ polo shirt and casual slacks and accompanied by his young son Trevor, Ilitch made his annual visit to TigerTown. He met with players in the clubhouse. Both Javy BaezCasey Mize and Tucker Barnhart thanked him for the offseason acquisitions. He came out to watch drills and was planning, eventually, to take in the Grapefruit League tilt against the Pirates.

But, make no mistake, he had something he’d been waiting three weeks to get off his chest.

Back on March 4, with the lockout lingering and negotiations between clubs and the players association intensifying, The Athletic posted a report that Ilitch was one of four owners to vote against raising the competitive balance tax threshold.

“Never,” Ilitch said Wednesday when asked if he ever voted against raising the CBT. “To be frank, there wasn’t a vote before. There was only one vote through the entire process and it was 30-0. I never voted against the CBT tax increase or the threshold, No. 1. And No. 2, there was no vote to be had.”

Ilitch, who took a good amount of heat publicly when the report came out, pointed to the new collective bargaining agreement the owners unanimously ratified, which raised minimum salaries for pre-arbitration level players, added a bonus pool for young star players and increased the CBT to from $220 million to $230 million in 2022, with further increases throughout the five years of the deal.

“The evidence is very clear to how I voted and what I voted for,” Ilitch said. “Anything else, any other controversy around that subject is really just noise that was created within a very competitive environment during a tough negotiation and teams creating noise for their own gain and their own advantage.

“The evidence is really clear as to what I voted for and have voted for.”

Ilitch also pointed to the Tigers’ activity before the lockout. He signed off on $224.5 million in salaries for free agents Javier Báez ($140 million) and Eduardo Rodriguez ($77 million), plus another $7.5 million to pick up the option on Barnhart’s contract.

Post-lockout, the Tigers added another $18.5 million in payroll for reliever Andrew Chafin ($13 million) and Michael Pineda ($5.5 million).

“We have gone out and done exactly what we said we needed to do — fill our needs through free agency,” Ilitch said. “Our club added as much payroll as anyone in baseball over the course of the offseason. If you add it all up, it’s pretty clear where I stand on the issue of how I voted and what I voted for.”

Ilitch said he didn’t pay much heed to the negative reaction to the report, though he was certainly made aware of it.

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“I don’t pay a lot of attention to what is written and said,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we stay focused on our plan and keep doing what is right, day in and day out, to win a World Series championship for Tigers fans. Tigers fans deserve it. Tigers fans have been incredibly patient. They have lived through this rebuilding process that we laid out quite clearly at the beginning.

“A credit to Al (Avila, general manager), his staff, and AJ (Hinch, manager), because they have worked very hard and they are delivering. They are delivering exactly what the plan was and it’s exciting.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky  

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