The 2016 MLB Winter Meetings are almost over and the Detroit Tigers have made precisely zero moves. No free agent signings, no trades, nothing. This is the polar opposite of the initial expectations.
Going into the meetings the Tigers were anticipated to make several big trades—namely deals involving J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler. Considering the incredible hauls some teams got in return for their big name players—the Chicago White Sox got four decent to great prospects for their former ace Chris Sale—it is surprising that the Tigers haven’t managed to move either Martinez or Kinsler.
Martinez will be a free agent after the 2017 season and is unlikely to re-sign with Detroit. He will make $11.75 million next season and is the textbook example of a player that a team would typically try to move at this time to maximize his trade value. Kinsler is under contract for 2017 with a club option for 2018. He is another example of the kind of player a team might be motivated to move. He has a team-friendly contract worth $11 million in 2017 and $12 million in 2018 with a $5 million buyout. Of course, Kinsler has a no-trade list that makes maximizing a return substantially more difficult.
This may be a good thing as Avila stipulated he would rather make no trades than make poor trades. To an impatient fanbase, it can sometimes appear that the GM doesn’t know what he’s doing, but it seems like a smart move to wait and see rather than rush into a deal and end up getting swindled. With the division growing weaker by the minute, the incentive to prioritize the future over the present is dwindling.
Al Avila does not expect Tigers to make a deal at Winter Meetings, he said.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) December 7, 2016
Another positive here is that Al Avila seems hesitant to trade away prospects. This is very beneficial to a Tigers’ farm system that is still recovering from the days of Dave Dombrowski trading multiple prospects for a superstar player. And let’s be honest with ourselves: it would take multiple prospects to land an impact player. We saw what the White Sox GM was able to get for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton; two of the top prospects in baseball and five lower-level prospects.
Avila also indicated that trade talks involving Ian Kinsler have gone completely silent. This isn’t terribly shocking, as Kinsler’s agent made it clear last month the second baseman will not waive his no-trade clause unless he is guaranteed a contract extension with another team.
If the Tigers were to trade Kinsler, Dixon Machado would likely replace him at second base. Alternatively, Machado would be the starting shortstop in 2017 if Jose Iglesias were to be traded. Al Avila made it clear that Iglesias has drawn trade interest, but the Tigers general manager downplayed the seriousness of those discussions thus far.
While it’s slightly boring that the Tigers have made no major moves since trading Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels right after the World Series, it’s a sign that the team is still planning to contend in 2017. They have a solid lineup and rotation as it stands, and the only real needs at the moment are a center fielder and a backup catcher. Barring any injuries, the Tigers could be a real threat next season.
Keep in mind that there is still a lot of time left in the offseason. The Tigers have not done anything yet, but that definitely does not mean that Avila has no plans until Spring Training. Expect the Tigers to do something, whether that something is a couple of trades or a low-risk free agent signing, in the coming weeks and months.