"It's something we've been open-minded to," Dombrowski said upon announcing the deal, "but you also have the right situation as far as the player, the makeup, and I think in this case, I felt we had both. And in Curtis' case, he had the desire to stay here."
The five-year contract is guaranteed at $30.25 million. It includes a $13 million team option for 2013, or a $2 million buyout. It allows the Tigers to retain control of their center fielder two years past what would've been his free-agent year, and it allows Granderson to still potentially hit the open market at age 32, the same age Torii Hunter is now after signing his free-agent deal with the Angels.
"In Curtis' situation, I just feel it's a win-win," said his agent, Matt Brown.
The idea of signing Granderson long-term gained momentum early this offseason, when both sides expressed initial interest. Dombrowski said the framework of the deal came together over the last two weeks.
Granderson's salary will more than double, going from $410,000 last season to $1 million this year. He'll be paid $3.5 million in 2009, $5.5 million in 2010, and $8.25 million in 2011. Essentially, the Tigers bought out Granderson's first free-agent season for a $10 million salary in 2012, and his 2013 option could rise to $15 million if he hits his performance bonuses.
How that contract ranks among the game's great center fielders in a few years remains to be seen. But as Granderson awaits his 27th birthday next month, he's in a position of long-term security that's hard for even him to fathom.
"To think about where I've come from to what I've got and now where I could potentially be, to start throwing the word 'million' after it, it's an amazing sentence to complete," Granderson said. "It's funny. I can't even put it into words. At the same time, I don't feel any different. It's going to be funny how everybody else views it, but I'm still going to be the same person."
Exhibit A in that regard was right next to him as he talked on the phone for the conference call -- an Extra Value Meal from McDonald's and a double cheeseburger off the Dollar Menu, of which he is admittedly a big fan.
"I'm going to get what I enjoy, and if it happens to be something like McDonald's, that's what I'm going to get," he said. "I don't really see it changing too much in terms of being flashy."
It's a very grounded outlook for someone whose statistics rivaled the most glamorous players in the game last year. After an up-and-down performance in his first full Major League season, Granderson became the first player since Willie Mays to post at least 20 home runs, 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same year.
Add a .302 average, 122 runs scored and a 26-for-27 success rate stealing bases, and Granderson became one of the American League's top leadoff men, setting up one of baseball's highest scoring lineups. After adding Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones to the lineup this offseason, the potential for even loftier stats from Granderson is striking.
One reason behind that is Granderson's workmanlike attitude to his money is the same as his attitude towards the game.
"There's always something to improve upon," he said. "You never can be happy with it. Right now, of course, it's going to be addressing pitchers, being more consistent like I have been in the past, continue to cut down the strikeouts, being more consistent in the outfield."
The near-constant effort to learn is the same approach with which he approached this deal. With his arbitration year approaching, Granderson researched the arbitration process as well as free agency. In the end, he liked the idea of security.
"I was going to be ready to play either way," he said. "I was going to be just as excited to go out there and continue to win, and that's the most important thing. If you don't go out there and win, we wouldn't be in the situation like we are right now for them to go ahead and make the opportunity."
That's what the Tigers have been banking on with their dealings since season's end. What once ranked among the bottom half of payrolls has now reached into big-market territory behind the Red Sox and Yankees.
"It's amazing from where we were a few years ago to where we are now in that regard," Dombrowski said. "I think it's also amazing when you look at the organization, from [drawing] 1.3 million people to being in a position of over three million last year and we're headed that way again this year. It all ties together, because you have an owner that gives you support and wants to win, and you're in a position where the fan support allows you, by their attendance and the way they come out here and support us, it allows you to increase your expenditures for player payroll. It all ties together, and all of a sudden, we're in the spot we're able to do this and put together this type of club and the type of payroll we have. Now, we have to take care of business on the field."