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Detroit Tigers in good position heading into the Winter Meetings

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With the broad strokes of the offseason completed ahead of schedule, Al Avila can now turn his attention to the detail work.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Al Avila has been a very busy man so far this offseason. Apart from tentative moves, and yesterday's enormous contract for David Price, the offseason market has sat idle so far. Meanwhile, Avila has already addressed his team's two biggest needs. Hopefully he can reap the rewards of his aggressive approach at next week's Winter Meetings.

First, Avila acquired Francisco Rodriguez, one of the better closers in the game, and then bolstered his outfield with a trade for Cameron Maybin. Both players came at very reasonable prices, and little in the way of prospects, leaving him free to ignite the Hot Stove on Sunday afternoon by agreeing to a five-year, $110 million deal with former Washington Nationals staring pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. This is substantially less than estimates of a seven-year deal worth $140 million or more, which had previously been projected by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron, among others.

Cameron had expressed concerns that Zimmermann was tipping into the decline phase of his career where an overpay in terms of money, years or both would have been inadvisable. His response to the deal was quite positive on the Tigers' side, however. The proposal looks to be very fair in terms of annual cost, and without the huge commitment of a seven-year deal. Zimmermann should provide a ton of stability as the second or third man up in the Tigers' rotation for several years to come and beyond 2017 when Anibal Sanchez's contract expires.

What's striking about this beyond the signing itself, is the fact that Al Avila has completed all the major moves required to compete in 2016, and he's done it well ahead of the pace.  Other contending teams around the major leagues haven't done a thing at this point. The Tigers' roster isn't complete, but the major pieces are in place already.

When the Winter Meetings convene in less than a week's time, there are going to be a full slate of teams under tremendous pressure to improve. We will likely see some enormous prices paid for the top players, and quite likely many of the mid-tier players will end up making out like bandits themselves as teams find themselves missing out on their top targets. The Tigers will not be among them. Instead Avila and company will be able to enter into talks in a relaxed posture.

In his first offseason, Avila has moved decisively to acquire veteran pitching talent, and he's done so before the rest of the league have even found their seats at the table. While negotiations over the top free agents fly fast and furious at the Winter Meetings, Avila and the Tigers could find themselves in the catbird's seat, needing only a few modest acquisitions to fine-tune the roster. That's a solid accomplishment for a rookie GM in an organization whose tenure has been characterized from its outset by a lot of pressure to get the organization back on track.

The Tigers still have somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-12 million dollars to allocate where they choose, assuming the luxury tax threshold is still the limit on payroll. The Tigers still need to add another quality reliever, and most of the fanbase would like to see them bolster the outfield and rotation with at least a decent player. These are things all more easily accomplished when not under the pressure to acquire the major pieces the team absolutely had to have to contend in 2016.

The Tigers' front office has done itself a big favor by being so proactive. It would be an unenviable position were Avila to arrive at his first Winter Meetings in need of a top tier starter and reliever. The pressure to get the necessary pieces in that environment could have resulted in serious overpays and mistakes. Now, Avila and company can sit back and let the rest of the off-season come to them, making small moves as opportunities arise.

This doesn't mean we won't still see a big trade. It doesn't mean the Tigers are now immune from making a mistake with a player. What it means is that the foundation is already built for 2016, the farm system is in no way depleted, and the Tigers look once again to be in a pretty good position to win the American League Central and contend for a World Series title. To all the rest of the major league teams hoping to contend in 2016? Hey, good luck with your shopping.