The Detroit Tigers have just two players on their major league roster who are set to become free agents after the current season. One is J.D. Martinez, whom we have profiled here as a trade target. The other is the General Manager’s son, catcher Alex Avila. Here is Avila’s trade profile:
Contract: Avila is signed to a one year contract for $2 million. He would cost his new club about $500,000 for the rest of the season if traded at the end of July.
Trade restrictions: There are no trade restrictions that would prevent a trade of Avila to another team.
Why he should be traded: Avila ranks No. 12 on MLBTR’s top 60 trade candidates. To say that Avila’s production has been a surprise would be an understatement. He leads the Tigers in fWAR despite playing in just 64 games. He leads all Tigers’ regulars with a batting average of .304, and also leads the team with a .407 wOBA, a .423 on base percentage, and has chipped in 11 home runs. He is a very productive, left-handed hitting catcher. This winter will be the third time that Avila will be a free agent.
The fact that Detroit has few assets they can trade with any surplus value in their contracts could help push them toward moving any of those assets that can be turned into major league players. Avila is a free agent after this season, and the club will do their due diligence to see if he has some trade value, rather than letting him walk away for nothing. Detroit has John Hicks in the minor leagues, who has been very productive at the plate whenever he’s had the chance to play, so the drop in offensive production may not be so great, if it even matters the remainder of this season.
Why he may not be traded: Avila’s value to the Tigers could hardly be overstated. In addition to having a fine offensive season, he has mentored the Tigers’ young pitchers as well as his catching partner, James McCann while working behind the plate.
The Tigers must also be aware of the fact that catchers, as a rule, are not the most highly valued players by comparison with those that play other positions, so the return for Avila, who is still basically a part time catcher, will not be that great. Avila’s greatest value to the team may be his work as a veteran, working with young pitchers and players.
Salary relief will not be a consideration with Avila. The team would save $500,000 if he is traded with two months left in the season, and they would have to pay his replacement the pro rated minimum salary of $535,000 for the same period. If the Tigers can not get a player who figures into their plans in a trade, they may find that they have more to gain by keeping Avila around, and maybe even extending him for another season.
Trade value: Most contending teams already have a starting catcher, so there could be a limited market for Avila’s services. The Tigers have needs in the outfield and the bullpen, and while they won’t get any top prospects for Avila, they may get a promising relief pitcher.