Trust – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
I have to admit, when it comes to life, and especially sports, I’m an optimist. More often than not I’ve believed in teams that end up letting me down in the end, or many times, well before the end. Maybe it’s the burning desire in my heart to see my team win a championship or maybe I am just clueless about sports (some would surely agree with this). Regardless of the reason for my undying optimism, I tend to trust my teams a bit more than I should. That I have to admit to being true.
But…I DO NOT trust Al Avila.
Mixed reviews early on
*Note: Grades are based on the move at that given time, not after looking back in retrospect.
The Trades (Part 1)
Since he took over as general manager of the Detroit Tigers, I’ve been skeptical about Avila’s ability to add the pieces necessary to win a World Series.
When he traded the Milwaukee Brewers for closer Francisco Rodriguez prior to the 2016 season, I have to admit I was in agreement with the move. K-Rod was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons and it was a move for a position the Tigers needed to improve. Grade: B
Then, Avila went out and traded the Atlanta Braves for Cameron Maybin and I thought to myself, “hey, I don’t mind the direction we are going.” Maybin, despite only playing in 94 games because of injury, held down the fort in CF while providing a spark in the Tigers lineup as he hit a career-best .315 and scored 65 runs. Grade: B-
Another trade by Avila brought us Justin Wilson from the New York Yankees. Though the move was not exactly “high profile” at the time, Wilson, after struggling in 2016, has proven to be one of the Tigers best pitchers (if not THE best pitcher) in the bullpen. In fact, Wilson has done a great job replacing K-Rod as the closer. Grade at the time: C
The Free Agent Signings (Part 1)
As you can tell from reading the last section, I was fine with the trades Avila made in his first offseason as the Tigers general manager. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the free agent moves he made.
When the Tigers announced they were signing Mike Pelfrey to be part of their starting rotation, I shook my head. Then, when I found out Al Avila agreed to pay him $16 million over two seasons, I almost spiked my iPhone into the ground. Seriously, what in the hell was Avila thinking by paying out that much cash to a pitcher who was coming off posting a 5.30 ERA in three seasons with the Minnesota Twins? Is there even one other GM in baseball who would have given out that contract? Well, now the Tigers are paying Pelfrey $8 this season to NOT play for them. Grade: F
Another free agent signing by Avila that has not panned out is starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann. It’s common knowledge in baseball that when a pitcher goes from the National League to the American League, you can generally expect a drop-off in production due to the fact the A.L. has a designated hitter. Yet, Avila agreed to pay Zimmermann $110 million over five years. Now, if Al was bringing Zimm over to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter for a reasonable price I would have been perfectly fine with the move. But Avila was not only bringing him in to be the No. 2 behind Justin Verlander, but he was paying him an average of $22 million a year to do so. Grade: D-
Then we have the Justin Upton signing. When Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave Avila the go-ahead to spend on some additional offense, Avila did just that by handing out a 6-year, $132.75 million deal to Upton. Though the contract was set up to play him an average of $22.125 million per season, Upton has the right to opt-out following the 2017 season. After struggling for much of the 2016 season, the streaky outfielder finished strong and has continued on that pace this season. Grade: B-
In 2015, relief pitcher Mark Lowe had the best season of his career as he posted combined 1.96 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP with the Blue Jays and Mariners. That stellar season was enough to pull the wool over Al Avila’s eyes and Lowe was given a 2-year, $11 million contract. In his first season with the Tigers, Lowe was awful as he posted an ERA of 7.11. Rather than keeping him around for the 2017 season, Lowe was cut. Grade: D+
Keeping Brad Ausmus (Part 1)
For those of you who have followed what I’ve written, you are well aware of two things I believe. 1) Managers are only responsible for around 5% of a team’s success or failure and 2) Brad Ausmus is not a good manager.
Ausmus should have been fired after the 2015 season but Avila decided to keep him around. Though I am not blaming Ausmus directly for the Tigers struggles, it is obvious that he did not do HIS job well in 2015 and he should have been fired. Grade: D-
The sequel has been more of the same
When the 2016 season ended, it did not take long for Avila to announce to the world that the Tigers were going to be shedding payroll. In my opinion, showing all of your cards like Al did last offseason was borderline moronic. There was absolutely no reason at all to do that and all it did was take away any leverage he had when it came to making a trade.
After Avila announced the Tigers were looking to shed payroll, it did not take long before he was ripped off. On November 3rd, news broke that the Tigers had dealt Cameron Maybin to the Angels for minor leaguer Victor Alcantara. The move did not come as a huge surprise because of Avila’s moronic declaration but had he really dealt the Tigers starting CF when they did not have a CF to replace him? For next to nothing? He did. Grade: F
One Avila move I liked and still do is trading minor league relief pitcher Drew Smith to the Tampa Bay Rays for OF Mikie Mahtook. Mahtook struggled in Tampa in 2016 but he did show some flashes in 2015 when he hit .295 in 41 games. Personally, I think Mahtook is a better fit in one of the corner outfield positions but for now, he looks like he could be the CF of the future for the Tigers. Grade: B
More free agent signings
When Al Avila signed his son Alex Avila prior to the 2017 season, it was not really a big deal. Sure, Alex was returning to his old stomping grounds but it was to play the role of backup to starting catcher James McCann. Alex was coming off three seasons in which he hit only .218 (2014 DET), .191 (2015 DET), and .213 (2016 CHI). As we now know, Alex has been outstanding as he is hitting .299 with 11 home runs in 64 games for the Tigers as of the All-Star break. But remember, we are grading based on the move at the time, not in retrospect and Avila was not exactly a hot commodity. Grade: C-
Wait, Brad Ausmus is still around?
When the Tigers fell short of the playoffs again in 2016, I once again said Ausmus needs to be replaced but Avila made the decision to retain him for the final year of his contract.
Avila claimed he believed in Ausmus but if that were the case, he would have extended him rather than letting him go into 2017 as a lame duck manager.
Now, if Tigers owner Chris Ilitch gave Avila direct orders to keep Ausmus around for the final year of his contract, Avila is off the hook a bit for Brad still being around but something tells me he had a say. Grade: D-
2017: Al Avila admits (with his moves) he screwed up
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Avila actually made a couple of moves that made sense when he released pitchers, Mark Lowe and Mike Pelfrey. Those moves also were him admitting that he crapped the bed before the 2016 season and now the Tigers are still paying for it…literally.
Because Avila somehow believed in Lowe and Pelfrey, he signed them to multi-year deals which mean the Tigers are still paying both for the 2017 season, even though they are no longer with the team. The Tigers are paying Lowe $5.5 million while he getting rocked in AAA Tacoma (Seattle Mariners) while Mike Pelfrey is collecting $8 million from Detroit while he pitches for the White Sox. That’s right folks, that is $13.5 million going out to two players who were cut before the season even began!
Wait, there is more!
Though I agree with Avila cutting his losses with Lowe and Pelfrey what I don’t agree with, at all, is how Avila handled Francisco Rodriguez after his horrendous start to the 2017 season. K-Rod made it apparent early, and often, that he was no longer the pitcher he once was. Yet, rather than sending Rodriquez to Toledo to work on some things, Avila allowed him to attempt to work out his kinks at the expense of the Tigers. As we know, K-Rod failed miserably and is no longer with the team. Oh, by the way, we are still responsible for his salary too.
The Tigers current payroll is just north of $181 million dollars ($181,270,600 to be exact). Of that total, the Tigers are paying Lowe, Pelfrey, and Rodriguez (some $ went to his time in Detroit this season) $19.5 million to play elsewhere! That, in case you were wondering, accounts for roughly 10.8% of the total payroll.
Personally, I do not feel like that is ok.
The future is dark with Al Avila calling the shots
As you can see, Al Avila has made some moves I can get behind, but overall, he has done a poor job in his attempt to build a contender in Detroit and I do not trust him one bit be the architect of OUR future.
With the Tigers well out of the playoff hunt, it is a foregone conclusion Avila will be looking to sell at the MLB trade deadline, which is coming fast. Sure, the Tigers have some attractive pieces that could be dealt to contenders, but thanks to Avila showing his cards at every single turn, he has no leverage.
Could Avila get lucky and find a contender who is desperate? Maybe. But who in their right mind believes that Al Avila is going to get the better of Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein or Los Angeles Dodgers GM Farhan Zeidi? No chance.
Unlike his father, Mike, Detroit Tigers owner Chris Ilitch seems more interested in making money than he does winning championships. He will almost certainly keep Al Avila around to run the show and construct the Tigers roster of the future and that truly scares me.
Nation, I am telling you right now, I DO NOT trust Al Avila with OUR Detroit Tigers and neither should you.