Rebuilding. The word that no one wanted to hear, to consider. It is now in full effect, spoken by GM Al Avila himself on Friday morning: “This is an obvious rebuild move.”
Thursday turned out to be a very busy day for Detroit. Early in the afternoon, it traded Justin Upton to the Angels in exchange for a pitching prospect. That made sense because Upton was certainly going to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. Thursday night the Tigers and Astros worked out a deal to trade Justin Verlander, probably the best pitcher in franchise history and one of the two main avatars of the 2006-17 era. It was painful but necessary, we wrote.
Here are a few quotes from Avila’s time with the press this morning, as well as why they matter:
Avila on the pain of rebuilding:
"Hey, we're going to have a rough month of September. And next year may not be all that pretty, either," he said. "But at some point in the near future we expect this to turn around. Some of those prospects will be coming up and making a difference."
Avila on the necessity of rebuilding:
“Basically, like most things, it comes to an end. It's a hard thing, but it's a necessary thing to be able to win in the future. If we didn't do this now, it would be impossible to continue to sustain a winning team.
“The perfect example would be: We were trying to win the last few years with a $200 million payroll and a club that was in need of more players at different spots. But when you have that kind of payroll you can’t keep on adding and adding and adding, because eventually you’re going to go $250 million, $300 million payroll, because where do you stop? Going over the luxury tax a second time, well, the third time is the worst you can do. Every team in baseball will try to avoid paying the luxury tax a third time.
"In reality, there was no choice. The other choice was to keep on adding, it would have been suicide."
(Via WXYZ video)
Why Avila talked about luxury tax concerns:
The MLB luxury tax punishes clubs who go over the ceiling repeatedly and especially goes after teams that blow right by.
A club exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time must pay a 20 percent tax on all overages. A club exceeding the threshold for a second consecutive season will see that figure rise to 30 percent, and three or more straight seasons of exceeding the threshold comes with a 50 percent luxury tax.
Clubs that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also subject to a 12 percent surtax. Meanwhile, those who exceed it by more than $40 million are taxed at a 42.5 percent rate the first time and a 45 percent rate if they exceed it by more than $40 million again the following year(s).
Beginning in 2018, clubs that are $40 million or more above the threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places unless the pick falls in the top six. In that case, the team will have its second-highest selection moved back 10 places instead.
The tax begins at $195 million in 2017 and $197 million in 2018.
The Tigers’ final 2016 payroll was $212 million. Their 2017 opening day payroll was $199 million.