The Tigers have signed Xavier Avery to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo.
Avery is a veteran of seven minor league seasons, though he turns only 25 on New Year's Day. He was selected by Baltimore in the second round of the 2008 amateur draft and was promoted to the major league club in 2012. Baltimore traded him to Seattle for Mike Morse in 2013, the same Mike Morse who is a newly-minted World Series champion with San Francisco.
Avery has played the bulk of his 777 minor league games in center field, a quarter in left field, and a smattering in right field. This is indicative of a good fielder with speed and a weak left arm, being groomed to be a fourth outfielder.
Avery hit .275/.344/.413 in Triple-A Tacoma in 2014, which is promising for the left-handed hitter. The excellent on-base percentage is consistent with his history. The 10 home runs are likely an anomaly caused by playing in the Pacific Coast League. He added 31 stolen bases to reach 200 for his minor league career. As power declines across the league, the value of speed continues to increase.
The Tigers designated Ezequiel Carrera for assignment this week, and Avery fills his spot in the depth chart without taking up valuable space on the 40-man roster. Carrera may have a slightly higher projection for 2015, but Avery is younger with more potential.
The move is a recognition by the Tigers that they have a shortage of outfielders. Andy Dirks, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter have all been shown the door. J.D. Martinez has one spot nailed down. Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis can combine to fill center field well, but the offense will suffer if they see 150 games each. Nick Castellanos' glove may need to return to the outfield, but they are not yet ready to give up on him as a third baseman.
Avery will join Tyler Collins, Ben Guez, and Daniel Fields as minor leaguers vying for a role in Detroit's outfield. Steven Moya may soon occupy right field, but he is not yet ready and may never make enough contact against major league pitching.