Winning the World Series is still top priority, and Mike Ilitch is willing to spend the money necessary to make that goal a reality, the Detroit Tigers team owner revealed in Monday's news conference to announce the club's acquisition of right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann.
"It's all I think about," Ilitch said.
In his first public comments following a disappointing 2015 season full of upheaval, Ilitch endorsed the work of new general manager Al Avila and indicated Avila has the green light to spend at will during free agency.
Following a pair of trades to acquire closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin, the Tigers inked the 29-year-old Zimmermann, a top free agent, to a five-year deal worth $110 million, a source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
"I think I proved that," Ilitch said when asked about his willingness to open the purse strings. "I've been in baseball for a lot of years. I didn't care about spending money. They get the players, and I spend, and I don't worry about it because they have good judgment."
His message to Avila this winter?
"I don't care about the money," he said. "I want the best players."
In fact, Ilitch admitted he'd be open to crossing the luxury tax threshold if the payroll continued to escalate and the market required such a commitment.
"Well, I'm supposed to be a good boy and not go over it, but again, if I'm gonna get certain players that can help us a lot, I'm going to go over it," he said before conceding this strategy was frowned upon. "Oops, I shouldn't have said that."
Ilitch, asked for the first time about former general manager Dave Dombrowski's dismissal, refuted the notion that Dombrowski was fired. Ilitch said the team had no plans for him to remain with the club past this year and, as such, let his contract expire.
"Dave's contract was running out. That was really the extent of it," Ilitch said. "He knew he wasn't going to be with us the following year. I looked at it as an easy way to handle it."
Avila, who was promoted to GM in August, said Zimmermann was the top pick for both the club's scouting and analytics departments. He called Zimmermann a "workhorse," someone who can pitch 200 innings, and cited his character and mental makeup.
"Overall, we got our man."
Zimmermann said he was flattered by the Tigers' pursuit and didn't want to drag out the process.
"I wanted to sign early," Zimmermann said. "We knew what my value was. We thought it was a good fit."
While Zimmermann's signing was the first big splash in free agency for the Tigers, Avila indicated the work was not done yet, and the club is still pursuing additional relief help.
"We are still in pursuit of pitching," Avila said, though he admitted adding another starter would likely require the Tigers to find a more cost-effective option. "Pitching is still a priority."