Cats Without Bats? A comprehensive map to the Tigers offseason

Last year was supposed to be different…

The rebuild was coming to a close. The Detroit Tigers addressed nearly all their glaring needs in the offseason. Former General Manager Al Avila identified assets through trades and owner Chris Ilitch authorized some free agent splashes. (Javier Báez, Austin Meadows, Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Chafin and Tucker Barnhart).

After two decades with the organization, Avila earned his chance to command the ship. Concluding eight lackluster years at the helm, the Tigers were left with nothing to show for their rebuild but a heap of losses. In a year where they were thought to turn the corner, the archaic roots of the organization burst at the seams…

Farewell, old friend. (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

There was little life at the ballpark, and just mere pockets of meaningful baseball in 2022. (Hey, at least Miggy hit 3,000!) The team ranked last in Major League Baseball in walks and home runs. A tidal wave of injuries hobbled the roster. Half the lineup hit below the Mendoza Line for half the season. After five months of catastrophic failure, Avila was fired Aug. 10. 

Enter new President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris. The former San Francisco Giants executive from the Theo Epstein tree took over Sept. 19. He sung a tune of modernity for Tigers baseball, summarizing his vision in three concepts during his inaugural press conference Sept. 20.

“We need to acquire, retain and develop young players,” Harris said. “We need to create a culture of development. We want to dominate the strike zone on both sides of the ball.”

The only thing that saved the Tigers from the eighth 100-loss season in franchise history was a last-ditch effort to stomp out season-long embarrassment. Whether it was the new flare of Harris, or simply a change in culture, things immediately took a turn for the better on the field. 

Detroit tied a season-high six-game win streak Sept. 23-29 and won 11 of its last 16 games. The team narrowly eclipsed the Kansas City Royals by one game, finishing in fourth place in the AL Central with a 66-96 record.

New mantra, new leaders

After taking the reins, Harris cleaned house. The up-and-coming executive delivered with a decorated staff that carries a track record of success across many different levels and organizations in professional baseball.

As the first big hire, Rob Metzler was named Vice President and Assistant General Manager Oct. 25. Metzler joined the Tigers after spending the last 15 years in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. For the past seven seasons, he served as Senior Director of Amateur Scouting and led the Rays’ MLB Draft process.

Following the firing of longtime Scouting Director Scott Pleis, Mark Conner was named Amateur Scouting Director Oct. 30. Conner spent the last 13 seasons with the San Diego Padres and eight seasons as the team’s Amateur Scouting Director. He helped the Padres transform their farm system into a warehouse of young talent that propelled them into World Series contention.

Perhaps as Harris’ most important hire, Ryne Eubanks, signed as the team’s Head Athletic Trainer Nov. 15. He spent the past nine seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks in various medical trainer roles, most recently serving as Assistant Athletic Trainer at the MLB level for three seasons. Eubanks is tasked with keeping an injury-plagued roster on the field and healthy in 2023.

The core of the coaching staff hired by Avila remains in place. A.J. Hinch is the Manager. University of Michigan product Chris Fetter returns as Pitching Coach, as well as Assistant Pitching Coach Juan Nieves. Gabe Ribas remains as Director of Pitching. Former Los Angeles Dodgers First Base Coach George Lombard stays as Bench Coach. Base coaches Alfredo Amezaga and Gary Jones will also retain their roles.

The Tigers made one addition to the pitching side of the coaching staff. Robin Lund joined Nov. 15 as Assistant Pitching Coach with a data-driven approach. (I mean, just scour his Twitter feed. It is a gold mine.) Lund adds to the Tigers Big Ten coaching talent, spending the last four seasons at the University of Iowa. He has a doctorate in exercise science and will assist Fetter and Ribas in further modernization of the Tigers pitching lab.

Finally, while revamping a historically anemic offense is no easy feat, a trio of candidates with a strong resume in development also joined Nov. 15. Michael Brdar and Keith Beauregard were named dual Major League Hitting Coaches. James Rowson will work under them in an Assistant Hitting Coach role.

Brdar, another U of M product, was the Padres hitting coach last season. San Diego’s offense ranked sixth in walks and posted the ninth-least strikeouts en route to an NLCS appearance. 

Beauregard spent the last four seasons with the Dodgers organization. Rowson has two decades of professional coaching experience, most recently serving as bench coach for the Miami Marlins.

MLB Draft

The first annual MLB Draft Lottery took place Dec. 6. Despite finishing with the sixth worst record, fortune favored the Tigers and they climbed to pick third overall. While official draft financials are not currently available, Detroit significantly improved their bonus pool for the 2023 Draft. This has major implications for the money the Tigers can spend in the first 10 rounds. It had the potential to make a major impact in the early rounds as Detroit has four selections in the top 75, and three in the top 50 (No. 3, 37, 45 and 75).

The easiest bonus pool explanation comes from the Tigers 2021 MLB Draft. For example, Avila and co. picked RHP Jackson Jobe third overall in 2021. The slot value for the pick was just over $7.2M, but Jobe signed under slot at $6.9M. With the money saved on Jobe, the Tigers were able to land RHP Ty Madden at No. 32 in Competitive Balance Round A for over slot value. 

Madden was thought to have the talent of an early first round pick, but fastball metrics shied some teams away from a hefty price tag. The slot value for No. 32 was about $2.2M, and the Tigers used the $300k they saved on Jobe to land Madden over slot at $2.5M. Time will tell what Harris and co. have planned for next summer’s draft, but extra bonus pool money creates all the more flexibility on Draft Day this summer.

The Tigers selected sixth overall in the Rule 5 Draft Dec. 7. Detroit picked RHP Mason Englert from the Texas Rangers in the Major League portion of the draft. Englert must spend the full season on Detroit’s 26-man roster or he will be returned to the Rangers organization. He slots in as the team’s No. 26 prospect.

The 23-year-old had an encouraging season in High-A Hickory before getting a brief taste of Double-A at the end of 2022. In 103.1 innings with the Crawdads, he posted a 3.57 ERA with 116 strikeouts and 26 walks. He was bitten a fair amount by the long ball, however, surrendering 15 home runs. 

The 6′ 4 righty primarily features a mid-90s sinking fastball and a sweeping slider. Fangraphs assessed a 55 future value to both his slider and changeup. Most notably, Englert’s 35 rated command has an FV of 60. With a few tweaks from the coaching staff and some fortuity, the Tigers may find much needed starter depth with Englert in 2023.

Rounding out the Minor League side of the draft, Detroit lost third baseman Dane Myers to the Marlins and picked up right-handed relief prospect Layne Henderson from the Houston Astros. No Tigers players were selected in the Major League portion of the draft.

More roster additions

It seemed like only a matter of time before Harris started to dismantle the bullpen for future success. Later Dec. 7, he did just that. For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Tigers leveraged an asset to acquire a close-to-MLB-ready hitter. Baby steps, but nonetheless steps forward for an organization devoid of offensive production.

RHP Joe Jiménez was sent to the Atlanta Braves for 3B/OF Justyn-Henry Malloy and LHP Jake Higginbotham. Malloy is the headline of the package with an advanced approach at the plate and added defensive versatility. While the defensive side to his game is work in progress, Harris stated Malloy was a personal long-term target and will help reshape Detroit’s offensive identity.

Malloy climbed three professional levels in 2022, slashing .289/.408/.454 in 133 games. The 22-year-old was the top remaining position prospect for the Braves (No. 6 overall) and posted an impressive 16.4% walk percentage throughout the year. His advanced approach and knowledge of the strike zone should pay dividends in the future, and possibly at some point in 2023. All signs point to him starting this year’s campaign with Triple-A Toledo.

What may have contributed to the Tigers sinking ship in 2022 was a lack of veteran pitching depth, and too heavy a reliance on the youngsters. Rodriguez was the only true veteran starting pitcher on the roster, and he only tossed 91 innings due to a two-month personal hiatus on the restricted list.

The Tigers first move in free agency was reuniting with LHP Matthew Boyd to address this issue. He signed a one-year, $10M contract Dec. 14. Missing nearly all of 2022 with injury, Boyd returns to Detroit healthy and ready to assume a role in the starting rotation. The intangibles of the signing are to note, as Boyd was regarded as a terrific mentor for young pitchers during his six-year stint with the Tigers from 2015-2021.

An old friend returns. (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

Concluding additions to the starting staff, Detroit agreed to a one-year, $8.5M contract with RHP Michael Lorenzen Dec. 20. The 30-year-old started 18 games with the Los Angeles Angels in 2022. While his walk and strikeout rates left much to be desired, Lorenzen posted a respectable 4.24 ERA across 97.2 innings. Dipping 15+ starters into the depth chart is DEFCON 5 for any Major League organization, and this certainly serves as insurance. (I hope we never have to witness something like that again…)

If last year’s starting pitching reality was DEFCON 5, the offense could only have been a full-blown nuclear apocalypse. While much of the fanbase (and the writers of this website) were hoping for the Tigers to make further splashes to address the fallout, it appears Harris is interested in taking a different direction in 2023.

“One thing we won’t waver on is we’re going to invest in our young players,” Harris said Dec. 5. “We are going to earmark at-bats and innings for our young players.”

With the non-tendering of Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, Harold Castro and a few others, the Tigers will undoubtedly invest in the youth moving forward.

Jeimer’s tenure has ended. (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

Whether it is to create every-day starters, develop trade chips or simply to save money, Detroit’s young core will take up a significant portion of at-bats next season.

Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson will be everyday players. (No, there’s not a 1B failsafe. Tork will be fine.). Akil Baddoo is positioned to get a healthy dose of at-bats in the corner outfield positions. Barring any further roster additions, Ryan Kreidler is thought to be the team’s Opening Day third baseman. Kerry Carpenter’s power surge in 2022 likely earned him an outfield role. Kody Clemens will get additional time to prove himself. 

If he continues to build on a terrific 2022 season, Parker Meadows will enter the outfield mix at some point in 2023. He will join his brother, Austin, on the Major League roster. It will mark the first time brothers are MLB teammates since B.J. and Justin Upton on the Braves in 2013.

(Look, it’s probably not exactly what you wanted, but it’s what you’re going to get. At least we didn’t get lumps of coal. (*Cough* Royals *cough*)

Reinforcements inbound

A handful of players are set to return or make their Tigers debuts in 2023. Following Tommy John Surgery, RHP Spencer Turnbull and catcher Jake Rogers will provide a much-needed boost to the MLB roster on Opening Day.

Jake Rogers is on his way back. (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

LHP Tarik Skubal had a breakout 2022 and was definitively Detroit’s most valuable pitcher last season. He underwent flexor tendon surgery Aug. 17 and is set to return around mid-season in 2023. 

While a late-season return from Tommy John is in the realm of possibility for RHP Casey Mize, it is more likely he does not pitch again until 2024.

Several up-and-coming prospects will get a crack at the Majors in 2023. RHP Wilmer Flores, the Tigers No. 3 prospect, comes off a dominant 2022 campaign where he was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He will need some refinement in Toledo, but he will certainly get a call to the Bigs in the near future.

RHP Reese Olson, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Daniel Norris at the trade deadline in 2022, serves as further pitching depth. Olson took off after joining the organization, posting impressive strikeout rates across High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie. If his skillset continues to grow, the No. 10 prospect will debut with the Tigers later in 2023.

Catcher Dillon Dingler, Detroit’s No. 11 prospect, is another intriguing option for depth at the catcher position. The Tigers expressed interest in the free agent catcher market, but opted not to ink names like Willson Contreras and Christian Vázquez. With the return of Rogers and the steady bat of Eric Haase, Dingler will have plenty of time to refine his skills in the Minors before breaching the Show.

On the position player side, a few young prospects and a waiver claim make their way to the 40-man to solidify infield depth. Zack Short is set to contribute in a bench role. The versatile Andre Lipscius and contact machine Wenceel Perez round out the young prospects. Andy Ibáñez was claimed off waivers from the Rangers Nov. 10. The 29-year old added another corner infield option to the roster as he posts low strikeout rates.

Potential remaining free agent targets

It is unlikely the Tigers make a splash, but there may be a move or two remaining. This offseason, Harris mentioned the need for a right-handed outfield bat and a left-handed infield bat to improve the MLB roster. Internal candidates may be favored in the long haul, but these on-record needs are yet to be properly addressed.

A pair of 34-year-old outfielders could be potential fits. A.J. Pollock comes with relevant AL Central experience and a track record of success. He strikes out at a low rate, but a power sap in 2022 with the Chicago White Sox combined with career-long injury concerns could turn Detroit the other way. Adam Duvall is still available and checks some boxes for the right-handed role. His high strikeout and mediocre walk rates may also deter Harris from signing him.

Tommy Pham is another outfield option, and Trey Mancini is still on the table. Mancini also comes with experience at first base, potentially serving as a backup plan for Torkelson. (Again, I don’t believe the Tigers are interested in insuring Torkelson’s role much.)

Former Marlins 3B/OF Brian Anderson fits the profile of a Harris target. However, he is primarily a third baseman and is a right-handed batter. He is a great defender, posts good walk rates and strikes out at about a league-average clip. He struggled a bit offensively last season, but still would have been one of Detroit’s top offensive contributors with a below average 90 wRC+. 

Finally, 3B/1B Edwin Ríos could provide some desperately needed pop to the Tigers offense. The 28-year-old was non-tendered by the Dodgers after battling injuries. He strikes out a ton, but has immense power from the left side that would have no trouble clearing the long fences of Comerica Park.

Potential trade targets

None of the aforementioned names feel like strong fits to Harris’ philosophy and the 2023 plans. It appears more likely by the day that a trade would better address needs. If the Tigers are to make additional moves, most signs point to it coming from the block.

The bullpen is still stocked with talent. All-Star closer Gregory Soto, Alex Lange, Jason Foley and Will Vest should all be dangled as trade chips to improve the offense.

Perhaps left-handed (or switch hitting) infielders like Ketel Marte, Tommy Edman, Jazz Chisholm, Eduardo Escobar or J.P. Crawford could be trade targets. The Tigers would likely have to unload some of the bullpen, along with a young starter or two. Madden is the most movable starting prospect to make a splash. Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo may be trade bait if they return to form following injury.

Financial freedom awaits

At long last, the 2024 Tigers may be free from the shackles of any long-term investments. Miguel Cabrera, who makes $32M in 2023, announced he will retire following the season.

Miggy bids adieu in 2023. (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

Jonathan Schoop’s contract also comes to a close. 

If this year’s winter frenzy is any indication where the market is headed in the future, the Tigers could be departing with Rodriguez and Báez, too. Both have opt-outs following 2023, and will certainly exercise them with any semblance of a productive season. Báez fell off a cliff last year, but steadily improved and turned into a solid performer in the second half.

In the eyes of most baseball minds, there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. The Tigers plugged some holes with temporary options until Harris develops a broader vision of the organization’s future. When the 2023 season comes to a close, it is likely there is not a single long-term contract on the 2024 payroll. Spend away, Ilitch. Opportunity awaits.

Wrapping up… it’s Christmas after all

With a deep-dive analysis, 2023 feels more like a one-year retool than a true effort to compete for the World Series. Financial flexibility looms on the horizon. Enforcing a new identity of strike zone dominance will take time, so it is understandable why the Tigers may be reluctant to take an over-aggressive approach to roster building.

Harris needs to flesh out what the Tigers are working with, and the players will get all the opportunity to show him. It will be sink or swim for the young guns, and the roster churning has just begun.

Rebounds by Schoop and Báez open a treasure trove of middle-infield trade options. Dealing Rodriguez may give the Tigers much needed offensive depth. Parting with some top-tier farm arms could gift a young, offensive star-in-the-making to Detroit.

While the entirety of the AL Central sits on their cheap asses (excuse my language), it may not be crazy to think the Tigers can approach .500 ball with an overhauled culture in 2023. Then again, maybe the Kool-Aid is extra flavorful this winter. Either way, a new era of Tigers baseball is brewing, and 2023 is just the tip of the iceberg.

I Want Candy…To be a part of the future in Detroit

(For educational purposes a key is included at the end of each section for all sabermetrics and non-routine lingo referenced in this article. For further reading on what these stats are, what they mean and how they are calculated please visit

Jeimer Candelario is steadily improving. (photo by Alexandra Simon)

July 31, 2017 – The Chicago Cubs were on a win-now playoff push with the corner infield positions anchored by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Meanwhile, prospect Jeimer Candelario was in AAA for the Iowa Cubs, nearly ready to play every day in the big leagues. With his positions blocked on a team looking for immediate upgrades Candelario would have to get his opportunity with a new club. The Detroit Tigers acquired Candelario and Isaac Paredes from the Cubs in exchange for veterans Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.

Candelario’s first full season with the Tigers showed a lot of promise. At age 24, he slashed .224/.317/.393 with 19 HR, 54 RBI and a 93 wRC+ in 2018, the production of a hitter 7% below league average. Combined with his defensive value at third base his production netted 2.4 fWAR, the total of a solid MLB regular. It appeared the Tigers acquired an average-to-slightly-below-average power hitter with good defense to help the rebuilding efforts.

The 2019 season did not go as smoothly for Candelario, however. His strikeout and walk rates stayed about the same but the power had disappeared. In 94 games he slashed .203/.306./.337 with 8 HR for a wRC+ of 72, the production of a hitter 28% below league average. Only Candelario’s defense saved him from posting net-negative value with 0.2 fWAR, or in other words: a replacement-level player. Candelario went from a promising young prospect to a potential bust in just a calendar year.

Key: Slash line – batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. wRC+ – weighted runs created plus. fWAR – FanGraphs formula for wins above replacement. Replacement-level – the statistical value of a fringe major-leaguer

The Paradox

SeasonK%BB%AVGxBASLGxSLGExit Velocity

On the surface these numbers are very similar. Many of the categories that would need improvement had improved from 2018 to 2019. Here is an extensive but not comprehensive list: K%, BB%, xBA, xSLG, EV, HardHit%, xwOBA, ZoneSwing%, LineDrive%, and a decreased GroundBall%. The results of 2019 do not make much sense on paper compared to 2018. Candelario became a better baseball player with worse production.

While it is likely true Candelario suffered from bad luck that impacted his production in 2019, Statcast is not a religion. As opponents learned more about Candelario they learned how to get him out more frequently. His skills were improving under the current approach, but this did not transition to results on the field. Something had to change.

Key: K% – strikeout percentage. BB% – walk percentage. xBA – expected batting average. SLG – slugging percentage. xSLG – expected slugging percentage. Exit Velocity (EV) – average speed of baseball in mph off the bat. xwOBA – expected weighted on-base average. ZoneSwing% – swing rate at pitches inside the strike zone.

The Framework and the Breakout

With his career on the line, Candelario erupted in 2020. Across 52 games in the pandemic-shortened season he slashed .297/.369/.503 with 7 HR, 29 RBI, 136 wRC+ and a 1.5 fWAR. To understand what led to this breakout, it first needs to be understood what makes him unique.

Jeimer Candelario’s plate discipline skills have been a highlight of his play since his prospect status. After becoming an everyday player in 2018, Candelario’s plate discipline transitioned well into the Major Leagues. This skill has been the framework to his success ever since. Each year he has placed himself well above the league average in pitches per plate appearance (Pit/PA) and posted solid walk rates. His 4.10 Pit/PA in 2021 ranks 30th of all qualified hitters in Major League Baseball.

Candelario vs league average among qualified hitters according to Baseball Reference

SeasonJeimer Candelario Pit/PAPlayer League Average Pit/PA*
*Player league average Pit/PA is calculated per 600 PA on bbref

As his plate discipline improved Candelario has seen fewer pitches without sacrificing walks. His 2021 walk percentage is currently the highest of his career at 11.2%. This can be explained by improved pitch recognition and contact skills. His strikeout percentage has decreased each season since 2018 and currently sits at 21.8%. This is the lowest mark he has posted since becoming an everyday player and sits below the league average of 23.5% in 2021. To further explain, here is a batted ball profile of Candelario from FanGraphs.


On the most basic level Candelario is swinging the bat more often each season. Unlike the previous three seasons in which his contact rate decreased in each subsequent season, Candelario is now making more contact than ever before. His in-zone contact percentage has increased each season, too. The most notable change in this graphic is Candelario’s in-zone swing percentage. Without sacrificing walks or increasing strikeouts he is significantly more aggressive attacking pitches in the strike zone.

For my non-baseball-savvy readers, here is the summary: More walks, more swings, more contact, more power, more aggression and less strikeouts. The foundation of a complete hitter.

Wait, foundation? What could be missing from the puzzle that has not yet been covered? The most important piece of all: launch angle.

Key: O – outside of strikezone. Z – inside of strike zone

The Final Form

For those who have followed baseball over the past decade, the launch angle revolution transformed the 2010s. In general, hitting the ball in the air more frequently resulted in better offensive production and more home runs. The thing about baseball is that there is no rule of thumb to hitting. Each player possesses a unique profile that contributes to their success or failure.

After his promising first full season the Tigers and Jeimer Candelario had reason to believe their approach combined with his skillset would produce power. They were wrong. The game adapted to this model. The more Candelario put the ball in the air with his swing path, the more outs he made. In 2020, this model was scrapped for a new one. By changing the trajectory of the baseballs Candelario hit, the Tigers changed the trajectory of his career.

Batted ball data from Statcast Baseball Savant

SeasonGroundBall%FlyBall%LineDrive%Average Launch Angle

After having success with 19 home runs in 2018 the Tigers and Candelario attempted to build on this by hitting more fly balls. His average launch angle and fly ball percentage increased from 2018 to 2019. While Candelario steadily improved his underlying skills, he was not meant to play under this model. His production plummeted and soon prognosticators were talking about Candelario like his days as a Tiger might be numbered.

Searching for answers amidst the launch angle revolution, Candelario and the Tigers went in the opposite direction, literally and figuratively. From 2020 to present day, Candelario’s new approach paid huge dividends. His game power manifested with a lower launch angle focused on hitting line drives. Attempting to hit fly balls for power was no longer at the forefront of his approach. With his skill improvements, this change in approach quickly lit up the stat sheets.

Across a larger sample in 2021 this approach has been tweaked. However, it is proving 2020 was no fluke. In 110 games Candelario is slashing .279/.363/.433 with a 120 wRC+ and 2.3 WAR. His 32 doubles are tied for second in all of baseball. The most value was found in Candelario’s play by harnessing his skills to create gap-to-gap power, especially in Comerica Park.

The Future

On a non-statistical note, it is becoming a lot of fun to watch Candelario play. His personality is a fan favorite, his confidence is soaring with consistent production on the field, and he is showing emotion more consistently and controlling it to get the most out of his game. It seems the best days of his career are ahead. It would be a mistake for the Tigers to let those happen anywhere other than Detroit.

Spencer Torkelson likely gets a crack at third base in 2022, Candelario’s primary position, but positional versatility is more important than ever in today’s league. Candelario already has experience at first base; he and Torkelson being able to play both corner infield positions will add more flexibility to the roster.

Candelario is set to hit free agency in 2024. With Miguel Cabrera approaching the end of his career, the Tigers will most likely need to fill a corner infield position in 2024, if not sooner than that. Spend money, Chris. #ExtendCandy.

What we know — and don’t know — about Al Avila’s trade record

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has a very busy two weeks ahead of him.

Despite whatever conjecture there will be via public or private comments, the Tigers are likely to at least sell some assets at the trade deadline. This will be the first time this happens under Avila, though he was heavily involved in Dave Dombrowski’s 2015 selloff.

I have, at times, been a bit surprised by the antipathy some Tigers fans harbor toward Avila. The truth of the matter is that his list of moves, particularly on the trade front, is not that long. There are the ones that he didn’t make, but according to those in the know, was hugely responsible for — Michael Fulmer was his idea, as was J.D. Martinez.

A majority of Avila’s free agent signings have been criticized, but looked sound at the time. Justin Upton looked like a disaster, but is now an All-Star. Jordan Zimmermann hasn’t worked out, but not even the most cynical fan could have predicted a spate of injuries and what happened after. Mark Lowe was iffy, but it was really only the Mike Pelfrey signing that commanded significant resources and was ripe for criticism immediately. Even that, as bad as it was, will have no long-term implications, as Pelfrey’s dollars will come off the books after this season. It was just the wrong choice.

What about Avila’s trades? Let’s go through the significant ones.

November 18, 2015 — Tigers trade infielder Javier Betancourt and catcher Manny Pina to the Milwaukee Brewers for relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.

Whatever you think of what Rodriguez turned into in 2017, the Tigers did give up nothing of value to get him. Pina is a career backup, while Betancourt is a career .234 hitter at AA.

In 2016, Rodriguez posted a 3.24 ERA and saved 44 games for the Tigers. He did it for $7.5 million dollars. Was he elite? No. Did he blow some bad ones? Yes. Was he good enough overall? Pretty much. The Tigers got a year of decent relief pitching for nothing.

November 20, 2015 — Tigers trade relief pitcher Ian Krol and pitcher Gabe Speier to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Cameron Maybin.

Again, Avila gives up little of value here. Speier has some potential, but doesn’t look like he’s about to become an elite reliever or anything like that. Krol is an inconsistent LOOGY. Maybin hit .315 in an injury-plagued season for the Tigers before being dealt again. Good deal, though, one that fans can have no complaints with.

December 9, 2015 — Tigers trade pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Justin Wilson.

Outstanding. On one hand, both Green and Cessa have turned into big leaguers, and Green has turned out to be a pretty good reliever. So is Wilson, though — a hard-throwing lefty who should command a significant return on the trade market. The rare trade that works for both sides, but it’s safe to say there are few regrets from the Tigers side of the deal.

November 3, 2016 — Tigers trade outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher Victor Alcantara.

A salary dump, pretty much. Doesn’t look great on the surface. Alcantara has good stuff if he can ever get command of it.

That’s it. There are some other minor ones — swapping Bryan Holaday for Bobby Wilson, and the Mikie Mahtook deal — but Avila is, near as I can tell, loathed by certain segments of the fanbase on the basis of four trades — three of which were good — and four free agent signings, as well as his retention of Brad Ausmus as manager.

Why? Who knows. The obvious answer is the team hasn’t succeeded despite a high payroll, but a number of the contracts that have led to this situation were handed out by Avila’s predecessor. The same goes for the lack of prospects and roster flexibility — the result of an organization under a mandate from ownership to stretch the window out as long as possible, even when it probably shouldn’t have been. Was Avila second in command during that time? Yes. We don’t know how much or how little input he had on all these moves.

The reality is, as much as some Tigers fans would like to write Avila’s epitaph now, his record as general manager of the team is very much a blank slate. What happens in the next two weeks will go a long way toward defining it.

Comerica Park to Move in Fences Once Again


Comerica Park will soon see drastic changes to its outfield fences. (Click to Enlarge)

DETROIT – A surprise press conference followed the Detroit Tigers’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on April 12th. Owner Chris Ilitch and General Manager Al Avila jointly announced that the outfield fences for Comerica Park are to be moved in immediately following tomorrow’s series finale with the Twins.

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