Will they or won’t they? Buy or sell? Rebuild or stay pat?
If you’ve been reading Tigers news since October, these questions and a million more have been raised during that time. With the Tigers teasing a “leaner and younger” outlook, many thought the fire sale would begin in the offseason, yet very little came out of the winter meetings.
Now, with the trade deadline looming on the horizon and the Tigers’ hopes of seeing postseason play all but obliterated, the questions are being asked once more. Is now the time for the Tigers to sell and start charting a course for a rebuild? Hot players like J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila will be free agents at the end of the season and are sure to be sought after by other clubs. Do the Tigers hold onto them now and let them walk for nothing in October, or do they make the trades that will net them prospects in return?
Are the popular veterans like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera really options on the market or not?
Tigers general manager Al Avila was on MLB Network’s High Heat earlier this week hoping to clear the air about the swirling rumors, but what he may have done was add more fuel to the fire of confusion.
Let’s dive right into what he had to say.
‘If we can make a good deal, we probably will.’
“We really don’t have to make moves based on finances or salaries or any of that. Quite frankly, if we can make a good deal we probably will, if not then we can just move forward with our players.”
The crux of what this means is that Avila doesn’t believe the Tigers need to make decisions strictly from a perspective of dropping payroll, and he’s absolutely right. Our own Patrick O’Kennedy looked at this earlier in the month, explaining why salary shouldn’t be the only motivator for a Tigers teardown.
What concerns people about a comment like this is that perhaps Avila is only looking at it from a monetary point of view rather than the needs of the future, and what the future Tigers franchise needs is prospects. How I choose to view it — however optimistically — is that Avila is simply saying they won’t let money be the only thing that dictates their trade choices, and they won’t drop guys just to save a few million dollars.
‘We have had inquiries on J.D. and we’ll see where that takes us.’
“He’s obviously a highly-coveted guy. He had a great week this past week and he’s having a great season. He’s probably one of the premier power hitters in the American League, if not all of baseball. We have had inquiries on J.D. and we’ll see where that takes us. Again, if there’s a good deal to be made we will probably move forward. If not, then we’ll stay the course.”
Stay the course.
One has to hope this is just Avila playing it cool knowing other general managers are interested, and will be looking for signs of desperation. The way the Tigers are currently situated, they can’t stay the course with players like Martinez. He’s a highly sought after trade candidate who could net the Tigers a couple of prospects. If they team holds onto his contract, it’s almost a guarantee he will move on to a different club for the 2018 season, leaving the Tigers with no J.D. Martinez, and no prospects.
In this case, they can’t stand pat if they really want to invest themselves in a rebuild.
Avila is telling other managers to bring their A-game with offers. He’s playing hard-to-get.
‘If you can get two Michael Fulmers for one, that’s a pretty good trade.’
“You can’t stop teams from calling you and inquiring, and we’re not gonna be so naïve where we’re just gonna say, ‘No, we’re not even gonna listen.’ I learned many, many years ago that if you can get two Michael Fulmers for one, that’s a pretty good trade. But in saying that, the probability of that happening is probably zero. It’s all speculation at this point. You can never say never, but it’s not probable at this point.”
Let’s be real here. He’s saying “I’ll consider it if you give my Kris Bryant.”
Michael Fulmer, who has been the most reliable arm in the Tigers rotation, and who won’t be a free agent until 2023, is the core of a Tigers rebuild. There’s no logical reason to trade him.
Avila is right to say that no one should ever flat-out refuse to listen on trade offers, but he’s taking a smart approach here by saying unless the end offer justifies it, he doesn’t see a Fulmer move happening, and that’s very good news for a Tigers rebuild, which will need Fulmer as a part of it if they hope to succeed.
‘At the end of the day we really have to take inventory and do what’s right for the organization.’
“It’s actually a very difficult situation for me. I’m very close and have a lot of close relationships with our players, but at the end of the day we really have to take inventory and do what’s right for the organization. I’ve known J.D. since he was a kid, he’s almost like my son. Some of these guys it’s very difficult for me to even talk about.”
Avila has been around since the Dave Dombrowski era. He’s known these players a long time, but he also recognizes that baseball is a business, and personal feelings do not come into play when making trades. Beyond thinking of Martinez as a son, his actual son, Alex Avila, is drawing a lot of interest, and Al Avila would be remiss in not taking advantage of teams who have noticed the younger Avila’s resurgence this season.
Alex Avila and J.D. Martinez need to go.
Sell, sell, sell.
‘Something could happen in the next week or two, if not sooner.’
As much as Avila’s comments may come across as vague and non-committal, at their core, they’re just the words of a general manager who understands the complex nuances of the situation he finds himself in. He’s not bragging about all the return the team will get, nor is he refusing to listen.
It’s easy to become frustrated with Avila based on his past actions, because he doesn’t appear to have done much since taking over the managerial role. But he’s been at this game a long time and he knows how these things are handled. Whether or not the moves he makes will satisfy fans remains to be seen, and we may not appreciate the return for several years, but changes are coming, and coming soon.
Buckle up. Things are going to get interesting.