As soon as the Tigers made Al Avila the new general manager in August of 2015, the writing was on the wall: Alex Avila was pretty much done as a Detroit Tiger. His father has never been comfortable with the situation, not from the beginning, not since the team decided to draft Alex Avila in 2008, and the frequent accusations found in various corners of Tigers Internet over the years that "ALEX IS ONLY ON ARE TEEM BECUZ NEPOTISM" certainly gave weight to the Elder Avila's concerns. Oh, Tigers Internet, you are such a hot mess, now and forever.
The deed is done, then, according to multiple reports, and Alex Avila has signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox for one year and $2.5 million dollars:
Chisox sign Alex Avila. 1 year, $2.5M, team announces.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 25, 2015
Alex Avila signs with #WhiteSox for one year and $2.5 million.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 25, 2015
Yes, I know, I can hear you yelling from all the way over here: if Alex was to be had that cheaply, why not keep him around in Detroit instead of trying to steamroll into 2016 with Bryan Holaday as your backup catcher? Alex Avila is one of the better pitch-framers in baseball, he worked very well with the Tigers' starting pitching staff, and he was always an on-base machine.
Bryan Holaday, on the other hand, is ... well, good lord, just look:
That's it. You don't come back from something like that, no matter what your future OPS or WAR might be.
Some -- no, many, I fear -- will be glad to see Alex Avila go. He had an All Star Year (literally) in 2011 and set the bar too high for himself. He was never going to be that good again, and so it was easy to overlook his value in other areas while his batting average continued to decline year after year. Others of us will remember him as a solid value-add behind the plate, with on-base percentages frequently in the Top Five on the Tigers roster.
For me, Alex Avila is best summed up by remembering that awesome game in June of 2014, the one that ended with Rajai Davis ultimate-slamming the Tigers into a walkoff win against the Oakland A's. We'll always remember Rajai hitting that ball over the left field wall and the hilarious look of surprise on his own face as the ball jumped off his bat. And that's how that game should be remembered, right? Rajai was the hero.
But down by three runs in the ninth inning, facing a very tough lefty closer in Sean Doolittle (who up to that point in 2014 was sporting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 56-to-1), you wouldn't expect Alex Avila to be part of the late-game rally. Alex is a lefty who can't hit lefties, a walk-drawing artist facing a guy who had literally only walked one batter all year. Not only did Alex get a base hit to keep the rally going, he beat the shift to do it.
It was a quiet contribution, surprising and stunning in its own way, but ultimately overshadowed by flashier, more fire-worksy things. Without Rajai Davis, there's no grand slam and permanent memory of mid-summer awesomeness. But without Alex Avila, that's only a three-run home run that ties the game.
So long, then, Alex. You were plenty valuable, even if it was usually under the radar.