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Detroit Tigers: Chris Ilitch can’t justify employing Al Avila any longer

The Detroit Tigers are a complete disaster, and no one deserves the blame more than Al Avila. Sure, the underperforming players deserve their fair share, as does former GM Dave Dombrowski, manager A.J. Hinch, and owner Chris Ilitch. But don’t miscalculate this; Al Avila is the main reason the Detroit Tigers are headed towards being nearly 20-games under .500 at the All-Star break.

Al Avila wasn’t exactly set up to have immediate success following the departure of Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski was in buy mode for years after receiving the blessing to spend from owner Mike Ilitch. With that in mind, Dombrowski eagerly, willingly depleted Detroit’s prospect pool trying to piece together a World Series Champion. Despite being unable to finish the job, the Detroit Tigers were widely victorious over eleven years between 2006 and 2017.

As Will Burchfield of 97.1, The Ticket recently pointed out. During that span, the Detroit Tigers continued to draft starting pitching, turning a blind eye to the position players. I’m not going to go over every selection year by year because in every draft in any sport, you could do this. Hindsight is 20/20, but usually, organizations don’t swing and miss this many times consecutively. During this span, the Tigers selected Ryan Perry, Jacob Turner, and Beau Burrows, passing on the likes of Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Matt Chapman. Ouch.

After being relieved of his duties, Dombrowski handed the torch to his long-time assistant general manager, Al Avila. Avila took over in 2015, and despite the organization being destined to rebuild, that didn’t become a reality until 2017. In 2017 the Tigers imploded. This is where Avila had the opportunity to replenish Detroit’s farm system by trading the likes of J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, and Justin Verlander.

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Those three significant pieces should have garnered a considerable return, immediately laying the groundwork for a somewhat quick rebuild, don’t you think?

Outlining Al Avila’s blockbuster trade history.

The Detroit Tigers received Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez for Upton. Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King for J.D. Martinez. Plus, Daz Cameron, Jake Rogers, and Franklin Perez for Verlander, arguably the greatest right-handed starter of his generation.

A couple of years later, Avila would once again trade his biggest chip, Nick Castellanos. Castellanos, at the time, seemed a bit irritated with the organization because they had moved him from third base to the corner outfield. Then had toyed with the idea of bringing him back into the infield to play first base. All of this occurred while Castellanos sought an extension, but the now clearly rebuilding organization also became reluctant to offer him an extension. Castellanos said he had no interest in limiting himself as a first baseman before hitting the open free agent market. Can you blame him?

The Detroit Tigers received Alex Lange and Paul Richan in exchange for Castellanos. Lange seems to have grown into something this season with the Tigers. He’s been used and proven effective in high-leveraged situations for Hinch. If the Tigers move bullpen assets ahead of the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline, including Gregory Soto, Joe Jimenez, and Michael Fulmer, I expect to see Lange inserted into the closer role.

When you recap what I have laid out here, it isn’t an overreaction to say the Detroit Tigers received Alex Lange for Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, and Nick Castellanos. How pathetic is that?

The Detroit Tigers will remain mediocre if Christopher Ilitch is content with employing Al Avila.

As a fan, you can easily justify being terrified of what the future may hold for the Detroit Tigers if Avila remains at the helm. Knowing what you know, do you trust Avila to take the organization through another MLB Draft which takes place this Sunday and another trade deadline? Do you feel confident that Avila will wake up one day and wave a magic wand, and this organization will suddenly be competitive again?

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Don’t forget what Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription) recently wrote. League executives don’t feel Al Avila is savvy or crafty enough to turn things around in Detroit. I wonder if that is because Avila is the absolute worst poker player on the planet? Imagine telling others around the league what you intend on doing, whether it’s trying to move a specific player to dump salary and then hoping for top dollar in return. It just doesn’t happen that way.

It’s so embarrassing that Rosenthal, a fair, highly respected journalist, can’t help but make you his punching bag for a day. If that didn’t garner the attention of owner Chris Ilitch, I am convinced nothing will. I once claimed that his late father would be ashamed of the empire he built and left behind. I still stand by this statement. That was two years ago, and what has changed? I recently ranked the four general managers in Detroit sports. You can imagine where Avila landed.

Last but not least, this was brought to my attention by my colleague AJ Reilly. Reilly isn’t only the V.P of Media at Detroit Sports Nation, he also hosts a great Tigers show called The Corner. Be sure to check it out.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Take a look at the current state of the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore defeated the Detroit Tigers in their last playoff appearance back in 2016. Both organizations hit the reset button at roughly the same time. The Tigers, with far more valuable assets to trade, are still stuck in a rut, yet Baltimore has ripped off ten straight victories heading into Friday night’s matchup with Tampa Bay. The Orioles are currently a game above .500 and just 1.5 games out of the Wild Card.

What about the Seattle Mariners? Going into Friday, Seattle had won 11 straight ball games. The Mariners currently sit was 48-42 record on the season, good for second best in the American League West.

Your Detroit Tigers currently sit (as of Friday) with six teams between them and the final Wild Card spot, 10 games back. Pathetic.

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Bob Heyrman
Bob Heyrman
Bob currently serves as the Editorial Director at Detroit Sports Nation. Bob's writing is comparable to the third starter in a rotation. Sometimes he throws junk that finds the barrel of the bat and gets smacked over the fence, but the odd time he can toss a complete game shutout. Bob is a passionate lifelong Detroit sports fan. Bob loves the city and can often be found downtown taking in a sporting event or a cold beverage at a local watering hole.

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