The announcement ahead of Tuesday night's midnight ET deadline sets the stage for the Tigers to receive compensation picks in next year's First-Year Player Draft if Rodney and/or Lyon sign elsewhere, but nothing in exchange for Polanco, whose interest on the open market is now expected to rise without the penalty of draft picks.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the decisions did not rule out the Tigers continuing to try to re-sign them. Their chances would've been stronger with an arbitration offer, but the idea of going to arbitration with the Gold Glove second baseman wasn't worth it.
Though the Tigers were tempted by the potential for two compensation picks for Polanco, Dombrowski confirmed that there was a strong chance he would've considered arbitration if offered.
While a multiyear deal is obviously a huge appeal for the 34-year-old second baseman, being offered arbitration would've almost surely hurt his value on the market. Any other team would've had to give up a first- or second-round Draft pick to sign him, and that would've slowed the market on him. The other pick would've been sandwiched between the first and second rounds.
The one-year salary Polanco could've earned in arbitration would have been very tempting for Polanco, but not for the Tigers. Polanco earned $4.6 million in each of his four full seasons in Detroit as part of an extension he signed in 2005, but for comparison's sake, contracts signed last offseason for such All-Star second basemen as Boston's Dustin Pedroia and Baltimore's Brian Roberts have come at much larger salaries.
The kind of salary Polanco could've requested through arbitration, Dombrowski suggested, would not have fit into the team's plan.
|"I would be very surprised if either of them accepted [arbitration], because I think they're looking for multiyear contracts."|
-- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, on Brandon Lyon|
and Fernando Rodney
It reinforces the chances that Polanco is going elsewhere.
Polanco won his second Gold Glove Award in three years last month after committing just two errors in 731 total chances, good for a .997 fielding percentage. Working alongside Adam Everett, he turned a career-high 112 double plays and posted a .509 Range Factor that compared favorably to his errorless season of 2007.
At the plate, Polanco drove in a career-best 72 runs to go with a .285 average, 31 doubles and 10 home runs. He ended up receiving votes in American League Most Valuable Player balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The Tigers are prepared to promote Scott Sizemore, their Minor League Player of the Year, to second base. Sizemore underwent surgery in October after breaking his ankle while playing in the Arizona Fall League, but he's projected to be ready for the start of Spring Training.
The risk of offering arbitration is far less on Lyon and Rodney, since any other team that signs them won't have to give up a Draft pick. The compensation picks on them would come at the end of the second round.
Both Rodney and Lyon are looking for multiyear deals and are attracting interest along those lines, even though the market for relievers can be unpredictable. Rodney took advantage of his long-awaited chance to close and racked up 37 saves in 38 opportunities along with a 4.40 ERA. Lyon served as his setup man for most of the season and used a dominant second half to finish with a 6-5 record, 2.86 ERA, three saves and 15 holds. Opponents batted just .205 against Lyon, who allowed 56 hits over 78 2/3 innings.
Rodney and Lyon have six days to accept or reject arbitration. Given their situations, they'll both likely choose the latter.
"I would be very surprised if either of them accepted it," Dombrowski said, "because I think they're looking for multiyear contracts."
Moreover, they're likely to get it. Still, that doesn't necessarily close off Detroit's interest in bringing either reliever back. Rare are the instances in which Dombrowski has signed a reliever to a multiyear deal -- Rodney avoided arbitration with a two-year contract a few years ago, while closers Todd Jones and Troy Percival both signed two-year deals with Detroit as free agents -- but Dombrowski said talks on Rodney and Lyon would continue.
Still, it sets up the challenge of a multiyear offer, something that might require the Tigers to do some of their much-rumored maneuvering to free up payroll.
Lyon's agent, Barry Meister, indicated he has stayed in touch with the Tigers, though talks won't likely progress until teams and agents gather in Indianapolis next week for baseball's Winter Meetings.
"We've each expressed mutual interest," Meister said. "We'll have a chance to sit down with them and talk about him at the Winter Meetings."
Detroit's last compensation pick was a first-round sandwich selection for reliever Jamie Walker, who signed quickly with the Orioles following the 2006 season before the Tigers had to decide on arbitration.
Detroit's other three free agents this offseason -- Adam Everett, Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn -- were not offered arbitration. They didn't qualify as Type A or B free agents, so they wouldn't have brought any compensation picks in return.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.