Detroit Tigers: Is Al Avila Doing the Right Thing for the Team?

The big question in the Detroit Tigers off-season is whether or not Al Avila is doing the right thing. Of course, every MLB team has the goal of reaching the post-season, but some teams are better prepared than others. And, much of that preparation happens in the off-season.

Other than a number of questionable minor-league signings, the Detriot Tigers have been rather quiet in this off-season.

To address what MLB team general managers have been doing in the off-season, Richard Justice from MLB.com asked the same question about other general managers. He looked at a handful of teams and what the pros and cons of their activities or lack of activities will do to the teams in 2017.

Unfortunately, Justice did not look at Al Avila and his actions. But, he did present three questions that all general managers are asking themselves or should be asking this winter. The questions are:

  1. “How good are we right now?
  2. Is there one more acquisition that makes sense?
  3. Are we letting an opportunity pass?”

Since Justice did not answer the questions for the Tigers, I thought I would take the opportunity to do it.

How good are the Tigers right now?

Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (right) celebrates with teammates J.D. Martinez (28) and Ian Kinsler (3) after hitting a grand slam against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer for the obvious reason that the team is not playing. But, looking back at the 2016 season, the team was good, but it just wasn’t good enough. All too often, the Tigers were unable to put away opposing teams in late innings and they were equally unable to get big hits at key moments. They were also unable to capitalize on moving men who were in scoring position.

But, the Tigers do have plenty of good things going for them. Big bats, like those belonging to Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez, are coming back. And, Nick Castellanos, who had a bit of a break-out season in 2016, should be completely healed and ready to play. The ageless Ian Kinsler will be back and James McCann – who has a big swing that is ready to hit big – will also return. Justin Upton spent the last third of the season showing what he and his bat can do.

The Tigers also have notable pitchers returning. Rookie-of-the-Year Michael Fulmer and perennial powerhouse Justin Verlander. Francisco Rodriguez will be back. But, there are a few questionable spots in the rotation: Anibal Sanchez has a habit of giving up home runs, Jordan Zimmermann has a neck/shoulder issue, and Mike Pelfrey has a Mike Pelfrey issue.

Aug 25, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins (18) celebrates with relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) after the 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Overall – the Tigers about the same as they were in 2016. But, without a major league centerfielder.

Is there one more acquisition that makes sense?

Yes. The Tigers need a real centerfielder. Right now, the options are limited to minor league players Anthony Gose (who has an attitude), Tyler Collins (who is the best option of the three), and JaCoby Jones (who is really an infielder).

Fortunately, there are some experienced Major League centerfielders who are still available. Michael Bourn and Austin Jackson are two notable veterans. But, Avila learned to wheel and deal from the best, so there could possibly be something else in the mix. Or, there could be absolutely nothing at all.

Is Avila letting an opportunity pass?

Probably. Unfortunately, we (at MCB) do not get to spend time in the negotiating rooms and we certainly do not get to tap into Avila’s smartphone. But, it is safe to say that there have been some opportunities that have gotten away. Notably, the signing that happened today with Colby Rasmus and the Tampa Bay Rays. The odds are that he was just too expensive to even consider, but he can play the position.

Some also think that Avila let an affordable Rajai Davis get away, too. After his clutch home run in the World Series, it is clear that Davis is still a viable player. It also seems like Avila did not get much in exchange for Cameron Maybin – a minor league ho-hum pitcher for a seasoned veteran who hit over .300 in 2016 just doesn’t sit right. And, there are still plenty of fans (like me) who are bitter over the re-signing of Alex Avila. So, it is safe to say that the elder Avila missed some opportunities or did not take full advantage of the opportunities that were presented to him.

Hopefully, Al Avila knows what he is doing. There is some serious talent on the Tigers and it would be nice to see the team reach the potential that they have on paper. Is Avila doing what is right for the team? Only time will tell.

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