In a recent interview on MLB Network's High Heat show, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila was asked for his reaction to Alex Avila's recent signing with the Chicago White Sox, and his answer was somewhat surprising. The obvious response would have been to say that there was a conflict of interests given the familial relationship, and a desire to avoid any appearance of nepotism.
Instead, Al Avila opened with the statement that his son would have actually been a good option for the Tigers. "He really would have been a good fit here," the elder Avila said. "A left-handed hitting catcher, a veteran guy that, in the event that something happens to your starting catcher, you have a veteran catcher that knows the team and can hit from the left side, so obviously the fit would have been here."
Yes, exactly! He would have been a great fit for the Tigers as a platoon partner with young James McCann, who, for all of his promise and moments of brilliance, is still young enough to need a juice box and a Fruit Roll-Up snack by the sixth inning.
So what was the problem with keeping Alex Avila as a veteran presence and mentor, in Al's opinion? Money and playing time.
"The dollars that I felt he was going to get in the free agent market, we could not afford it here, just because we were going to put this money into pitching in general, starting pitching and relievers, so ... in the way that we were going to make up our club, we were happy with our catching in McCann and Holaday -- you could also tweak the catching or the backup catching a lot cheaper than, let's say, two or three million dollars."
Al went on to say that Alex wanted more playing time and wasn't going to get that in Detroit. He even speculated that Alex may have "left money on the table" in exchange for the possibility of getting more playing time with the White Sox.
Surprised? And here you thought it was all about the nepotism. (It probably still is, other good reasons aside.)
You could argue that Alex Avila should have been given preference over Bryan Holaday as the primary backup catcher, but if it really was an issue of available funds, we have to face that fact that Holaday will be making the league minimum in 2016, which is about $2 million less than what Alex Avila got from the White Sox.
If the concern is that the Tigers should probably have a third backup catcher lined up, in the event that McCann has to miss significant playing time -- maybe he gets bitten by a zombie, or forgets to board a plane out of Oakland, or pulls a muscle in another dugout dust-up with Jose Iglesias -- Al Avila's comments hint that there may be a plan to "tweak the catching or the backup catching [for] a lot cheaper" than what Alex Avila will make.
Personally, I would loved to have seen Brayan Pena make a re-appearance in a Tigers uniform, complete with his NERTS, his Fig Newtons, his round-the-bases-in-seven-seconds home run "trot," and all the other fun stuff he brought to the team, but unfortunately he just signed a two-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Maybe in 2018, Brayan.
Watch the entire Al Avila interview below. (Warning: video contains Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo.)