Tigers continue busy offseason, sign Curtis Granderson to 5-year contract

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers could have kept Curtis Granderson around for a while, retaining his talents with one-year deals until he became eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

The Tigers, though, don’t just wait around to make moves these days.

Granderson and baseball’s busiest team agreed Monday to a $30.25 million, five-year contract that includes a club option for 2013 that could make the deal worth up to $43.25 million.

“The Tigers held all the chips and didn’t have to do anything,” Granderson said. “I’m very happy with the way everything happened.”

Tigers president Dave Dombrowski is not known to give long-term deals to players before they are even eligible for arbitration, but Granderson merited an exception.

“What makes it different is the quality of player we’re talking about and his makeup as a person,” Dombrowski said.

Manager Jim Leyland said it was “a great deal” for Granderson and the Tigers.

“He’s the kind of player we want, not only in terms of ability but as a quality person,” Leyland told The Associated Press. “He’s as good as it gets on and off the field.”

Granderson had a breakout season last year, hitting .302 with 23 homers and 74 RBIs along with 38 doubles, 23 triples and 26 stolen bases. He led the majors in triples with the highest total since Ty Cobb had one more in 1917.

He joined Willie Mays and Frank “Wildfire” Schulte as the only players in major league history with 20 steals, 20 homers, 20 triples and 20 doubles. Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins became a part of the 20-20-20-20 club later in the season

Schulte was the first to accomplish the feat in 1911 while playing for the Chicago Cubs, and Mays did it in 1957 with the New York Giants.

Granderson, who earned two degrees at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has represented Major League Baseball as an ambassador during the past two offseasons in Europe and Africa. The Chicago-area native turns 27 on March 16.

In 373 games with the Tigers, he is hitting .280 with 50 homers, 162 RBIs, 232 runs, 76 doubles and 36 triples.

“Curtis is one of the top young players in the game,” Dombrowski said.

Granderson is part of what has become an impressive team, which is trying to go from good to great with an array of moves this winter after assembling a strong franchise.

The Tigers traded for All-Stars Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria along with Jacque Jones this winter. They also re-signed Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones and Nate Robertson after exercising their option Ivan Rodriguez’s contract.

Detroit has improved dramatically in a short time, playing in the 2006 World Series and contending for a spot in the playoffs deep into last season not long after losing an AL-record 119 games in 2003.

Granderson gets $1 million this year, $3.5 million in 2009, $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 million in 2011 and $10 million in 2012. The Tigers have a $13 million option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout.

Depending on criteria such as All-Star selection and postseason awards, the price of the option could escalate to $15 million.

The Tigers used to rank in the middle of the pack in payroll, but are now among the second-tier spenders trailing the New York Yankees.

“It’s amazing from where we are from a few years ago in that regard,” Dombrowski said. “It all starts with the owner (Mike Ilitch) and then, fan support allows you to increase your expenditures. All the sudden, we’re in a position to put together a team like this.

“Now, we have to take care of business on the field.”