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Al Avila promises Tigers will ‘get younger, leaner’ during offseason

During his end-of-year press conference, the Tigers’ GM hinted that big changes may be on the horizon.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Three months ago, a vocal minority of Tigers fans hoped that the team would sell at the non-waiver trade deadline to kick-start a rebuild that would usher in the next winning era of winning baseball in Detroit. If general manager Al Avila is to be believed, that reality might be closer than we thought.

During his end-of-year press conference on Tuesday, Avila dropped a number of interesting quotes about the Tigers’ plan for the upcoming offseason. Per reporters, Avila said that the Tigers “want to get younger,” and “want to run the organization without having to go over our means.”

Owner Mike Ilitch has previously spared no expense in his pursuit of bringing a World Series title to Detroit, but Avila’s presser hinted that a change in philosophy might be taking place. He was noncommittal about how much payroll would change, but emphasized that the Tigers would not be taking on any more salary than they had in 2016. Many of the players on the roster are already under club control for the 2017 season. This includes Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez, both of whom have team options for next season. While both options should probably be picked up, Avila did not say whether the team had made a decision on either player yet.

Avila’s quotes hinted at a lot of uncertainty, but all signs point to the Tigers dangling some of their more expensive talents in trade offers this winter in an effort to shed salary. The Tigers’ payroll eclipsed $200 million in 2016, a number that they had worked to avoid in previous years. Fans have anticipated a drop in payroll at some point in the near future, but Avila’s quotes seem to point at this reality coming sooner rather than later.

While a full tear-down doesn’t seem to be in play — Avila said that the work “can not be done in one offseason” — this winter may not be as quiet as we previously anticipated.