Would he, or wouldn't he have? If you believe him, he probably would have:
Placido Polanco certainly won't be hurting for money after signing a three-year deal worth $18MM with the Phillies this offseason, but if the Tigers had offered him arbitration, he probably would have accepted it according to MLB.com's Jason Beck.
"You know, if they would've offered me arbitration, I probably would've accepted it," Polanco said. "Probably. I didn't know what was out there. Most teams were waiting on that. Most teams wait on that, because the type of free agent I was, they have to give up a Draft pick. So that kind of worked out well for me."
After earning $4.6MM during his final season in Detroit, Polanco was probably looking at a $6MM salary or so if he had accepted arbitration and gone to a hearing. As a Type-A free agent, a team would have had to surrender a high draft pick to sign him if he turned down the offer. The Tigers had to weigh the pros of possibly landing two high draft picks against the cons of having Polanco on a one-year contract, likely at more money than they were comfortable paying him.
Yeah, it kind of worked out well. For Polanco, and the Phillies too. Polanco is a bargain at $6 million per season.
And yeah, the Tigers "had to weigh the pros of possibly landing two high draft picks against the cons of having Polanco on a one-year contract." But how severe were the cons, really?
We know that Polanco's value is substantially higher than $6 million for one season, because he signed with the Phillies for three years and $18 million. So let's peg his 2010 value -- on the market, as opposed to on the field -- at $7 million.
By offering Polanco arbitration, the Tigers would have gotten either two draft picks, had Polanco declined and signed with another club, or a $7 million commodity, who they could have either played or traded.
The Tigers didn't want to play Polanco because they've already got Brandon Inge at third base and they're going with rookie Scott Sizemore at second. Both of those guys bat right-handed, as does Polanco, so you can understand why the latter was considered surplus talent.
What this comes down to, I think, is that Dave Dombrowski didn't trust his ability to trade Polanco for value before Opening Day. Or maybe Dombrowski's boss didn't trust Dombrowski's ability. Either way, it's just odd to see a team give up a valuable, yet relatively cheap player like Polanco for nothing.