Detroit Tigers’ general manager, Al Avila, has a lot on his plate these days. The Tigers are fully committed to rebuilding after this season’s trades of Justin Verlander and Justin Upton, and even younger talent already on staff may find themselves shipped away before things turnaround. At last month’s general manager’s meetings in Orlando, Florida, Avila made it clear that even younger players with plenty of team control won’t be off limits as the team looks to stockpile talent in the farm system.
Specifically, the trio of Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd are pretty clearly available in trade. However, Avila sounded open to just about any trade, should the return be enough. That’s the attitude he has to take as he attempts to orchestrate the rebuilding effort and balance the career paths and timetables of his younger, cost-controlled players. As always, the answer to any trade proposal lies in the potential return.
FanGraphs’ David Laurila had some choice quotes on the subject from Avila’s conversations at the general manager’s meetings.
“If you look at our pitching staff, (Daniel) Norris is still young,” said Avila. “(Matt) Boyd and (Michael) Fulmer are still young. Are they going to be part of that process three years from now? Quite possibly they could, but I can’t sit here today and tell you which way it’s going to go. We need to continue to add and acquire, and quite frankly, if we do make any more trades down the road, it’s going to be one of those young guys — maybe.”
Ok, there’s a lot of equivocating there. These guys may be part of the Tigers’ long-term future, or they’ll be traded—maybe. Really covering all the bases there. It still stands to reason that none of the three are at a point where a team is likely to make big offers relative to their results thus far in their careers.
Fulmer could be the exception, but with issues outstanding around his 2017 season and subsequent minor surgery, it’s still quite hard to see a team ponying up and putting together a big time prospect package for him. Letting him bounce back strong in 2018 remains, presumably, the best way to maximize any potential return. If a team is willing to deal as though Fulmer had already rebounded with a healthy and excellent season? Then perhaps there is a deal to make.
In one sense, there’s nothing radically new in Avila’s statement. However, he mentions Norris and Boyd specifically in a way he hasn’t done previously. Neither is likely at their peak value just yet, and the Tigers have enough years of control to wait until they’re more valuable trade pieces. But they are available should a team have enough confidence in either to pay the price.
Avila also discussed the need to find value through instruments such as minor league free agency and the Rule 5 draft.
“Maybe we’ll find another Mahtook in one of our trades, or we’ll find another (Daniel) Stumpf in the Rule 5,” said Avila. “Maybe we’ll find another J.D. as a minor league free agent. Those aren’t easy to do, but every team has to once in awhile find something like that.”
Sounds like the Tigers think they have something in outfielder Mikie Mahtook. We’ll see in 2018. Avila mentions the amount of control the Tigers have over him, and references him readily as a player the Tigers have as part of their nucleus going forward. Of course he also includes Daniel Stumpf in that group. Either could be a modest trade chip going forward with a bit more improvement.
Overall, one gets the impression that the Tigers’ front office is just going to play this by ear over the next two seasons. If someone is willing to pay a premium price in prospects? Anyone is available. Of course that much should be a no-brainer to begin with. And certainly continuing to hunt for bargains has to remain a focus.
The question remains what are they going to do beyond the obvious to boost their stockpile of talent in the minor leagues? Tigers’ fans hoping for a little more creativity will have to remain in wait and see mode for the foreseeable future.