Detroit Tigers: Five Best Transactions of 2016

Detroit Tigers

Apr 12, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Justin Upton (8) receives congratulations from first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) after he hits a home run in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers fans saw the team just miss the postseason in 2016. However, there were plenty of positives to be had following the campaign. Here are the five best transactions of 2016.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila recently wrapped up his first full year leading the team’s front office.

While many of Avila’s best moves came in 2015— trading for Cameron Maybin, signing Jordan Zimmermann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia—the general manager still managed to make some intriguing moves.

Avila picked up catcher John Hicks on waivers, while also flipping Jefry Marte for minor league infielder Kody Eaves. Both Hicks and Eaves could play roles for the team in the future.

Despite the Tigers not being the most active team during the regular season, Detroit did plenty of work on either side of the 2016 campaign.

Casey McGehee and Bobby Parnell were added to provide minor league depth early in the year, while plenty of minor league free agents joined after the World Series wrapped up.

Since the end of October, the likes of Omar Infante, A.J. Achter, Juan Perez and Collin Balester were brought in on minor league pacts.

Here are five of Al Avila and the Detroit Tigers’ best transactions of the 2016 calendar year.

Detroit Tigers

Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) pretends to tag Detroit Tigers center fielder Cameron Maybin (4) at second base in the ninth inning at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

When healthy, Cameron Maybin enjoyed an excellent season in his return to the Detroit Tigers organization.

Originally the 10th-overall pick in the 2005 draft, Maybin was previously dealt to the Marlins after just 24 games in a Detroit uniform.

Of course, that trade would go on to net the Tigers a slugger by the name of Miguel Cabrera.

After stints Florida, San Diego and Atlanta, Maybin rejoined Detroit in a shrewd offseason deal that saw Ian Krol and Gabe Speier head the other way.

Overall, the center fielder hit .315 with a strong .383 on-base. He also added 65 runs scored, 43 RBI, 15 stolen bases, 14 doubles, five triples and four home runs in 94 games.

However, with the Tigers looking to succeed with a more financially-sustainable unit, Maybin was an obvious trade candidate.

The veteran will turn 30 next April and (per Spotrac) is due $9 million in 2017 before hitting free agency. With JaCoby Jones likely taking over in center field sooner rather than later, it made sense to move on from Maybin despite his seemingly-solid stats.

While the former first-round pick showed extremely well with the Tigers in 2016, he did so while sporting a .383 BABIP. In other words, he’s a candidate to regress next season.

Victor Alcantara

In return for Maybin, who Detroit dealt without eating any salary, the Tigers received hard-throwing pitcher Victor Alcantara.

While the 23-year-old’s minor league numbers don’t exactly show it, the pitcher has intriguing upside. A hard-throwing right-hander with a promising slider, Alcantara has the makings of a dominant reliever.

After wrapping last season with Anaheim’s Double-A affiliate, the pitcher could make his way to Detroit in the near future.

Detroit Tigers

May 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister (28) and catcher Bobby Wilson (6) celebrate after the game at Comerica Park. Texas won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Flipping Bobby Wilson Back to the Texas Rangers

Originally acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Bryan Holaday swap—something that we’ll come back to later—Wilson only suited up in five games for the Detroit Tigers.

All told, those five games were remarkably unremarkable from an offensive standpoint. The backstop collected two hits, two RBI and a walk in 15 at bats.

Serving as catching depth, the longtime Angel turned in a wRC+ of -9, while registering an on-base percentage of .200.

The 33-year-old also allowed a stolen base and a wild pitch in his brief time behind the plate in a Detroit uniform.

After just over a month with the Tigers, Wilson was dealt back to the Rangers for pitcher Chad Bell. A 27-year-old left-hander, Bell compiled a 3.70 ERA in 80.1 minor league innings.

Those frames spanned 28 appearances and included 10 games started, four games finished and a 10-4 record.

Bell was recently added to Detroit’s 40-man roster and could contribute next year as a swingman reliever or a spot starter next season.

Avila and company did extremely well to net a potentially useful piece for a veteran catcher who struggled from an offensive standpoint.

Detroit Tigers

Sep 22, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Erick Aybar (15) slides into third base after a passed ball in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Acquiring Erick Aybar from Atlanta

Detroit Tigers fans saw catcher and free agent signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia contribute some clutch hits during the 2016 campaign.

While Saltalamacchia’s offensive contributions provided a boost off the bench, Mike Aviles struggled early in the season.

A fellow free agent signing, the veteran utility man was brought in to add pop and defensive flexibility to the bench.

In 68 games, the veteran logged .060 ISO while turning in a -1.4 WAR. All told, his wRC+ finished at 41.

With the Tigers in contention for a playoff spot down the stretch, Avila made a move to improve the bench, dealing Aviles and catching prospect Kade Scivicque to Atlanta for infielder Erick Aybar.

A former All-Star with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the 32-year-old hit .250 with eight RBI, seven runs scored, five doubles and a home run in 80 at-bats.

The veteran also provided Brad Ausmus with a solid on-base threat, notching a .341 on-base percentage in 29 games played.

Aybar also posted an 88 wRC+ and a .100 ISO while playing second base, shortstop and third base.

While Detroit had to give up Scivicque to bring in the 32-year-old, Aybar provided the Tigers with exactly what the team was looking for—a bench upgrade.

Detroit Tigers

Mar 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday (50) runs around the bases as he hits a grand slam during the second inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Bryan Holaday to the Texas Rangers

Bryan Holaday enjoyed a torrid Spring Training for the Detroit Tigers in 2016, batting .438 with a 1.423 OPS. The backstop also turned in 12 RBI, seven runs scored, four home runs, three doubles and a triple in just 32 at-bats.

However, despite the excellent spring numbers, the former sixth-round pick was unable to unseat Saltalamacchia as James McCann’s primary backup in the Motor City.

Detroit would go on to trade the 29-year-old to his hometown Texas Rangers for Wilson and minor league pitcher Myles Jaye.

Wilson struggled, but was flipped for a solid depth piece in Chad Bell.

In addition to Bell, the Tigers also picked up Jaye as a result of dealing Holaday.

A 25-year-old starter, Jaye pitched to a 3.95 ERA in 28 starts split between Erie and Toledo last season.

The former 17th-round pick doesn’t strike too many batters out (7.5 per nine frames), but he has shown a consistent ability to get batters out.

The right-hander previously spent time in both the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox systems. Now with the Tigers, Jaye could contribute as early as next season.

Like Bell, he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Unlike Bell, he doesn’t have much experience in the bullpen, but the potential is there as an extra starter or swingman.

Should one or both of Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey be dealt, Jaye would be one of the top options to step into the rotation should something happen to Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd or Jordan Zimmermann.

Detroit Tigers

May 3, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Justin Upton (8) hits a single during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Signing Justin Upton

Justin Upton’s first handful of months with the Detroit Tigers weren’t exactly anything to write home about.

From April 5th through the 18th of August, the slugger accounted for 53 runs scored and just 46 RBI. He only managed 13 home runs while striking out 140 times in 115 games.

However, from the 20th of August through the end of the 2016 season, Upton proceeded to start destroying baseballs.

Over his final 38 games, the left fielder hit .309 with a .397 on-base percentage. Upton also added a 1.162 OPS while madding 18 home runs. During that stretch, he also added 41 RBI and 28 runs scored.

Despite the slow start, Upton tied his career high in home runs, while posting the fourth-highest ISO mark of his career at .219.

If Upton can perform at a level closer to his form down the stretch, the Detroit Tigers will be in an enviable position from an offensive standpoint.

Cameron Maybin’s departure could warrant a return to hitting near the top of the order for Upton.

If the former first-overall pick can continue to obliterating pitches, the Tigers will stand an excellent chance of returning to the playoffs.

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