Al Avila arrived in San Diego last week, and in a rush to get to the Winter Meetings, he jumped into the wrong Uber. After being dropped at a local Target, which Avila assumed was the site of the meetings, he wandered around for four days looking for the action.
If it weren’t for the fact that Austin Romine had lost his luggage and needed underwear, the organization would’ve very likely come out of the week with no signings, but as Austin was reaching for the Hanes multi-pack boxer briefs, Al recognized him and swooped in. Startled and slightly terrified, Romine tried to avoid Avila’s advances, but Al closed the deal somewhere in the parking lot when Romine decided that agreeing to play in Detroit for just over $4 million was the price of being left alone. Thankfully, Dave Littlefield tracked Al down in the housewares section sometime on Thursday morning and hustled him over to the actual location just in time to pick up three guys you won’t remember in three years in the Rule 5 draft.
With the Winter Meetings well in the rearview, signings continue to come through and the market gets smaller by the day. The Tigers still have needs. When and how those get filled is a mystery. Until the needle moves on those transactions, let’s see if we can find productive ways to occupy our time.
Coming into this offseason, Austin Romine had no idea what to expect. Having been with the New York Yankees for 12 years, this was his first foray into free agency; he also happened to stumble into a good market. According to Romine, when he got the opportunity to come to Detroit, he jumped at it, in no small part because it was a chance to be the everyday catcher for the team.
After posting solid numbers in a 2019 season that saw him take over the helm for a stretch while Gary Sanchez was out, Romine is anxious to prove himself and use his experience to help a young staff improve.
What’s the plan?
David Laurila at FanGraphs devoted a little chunk of his Sunday notes to what Dave Littlefield and the Tigers see in recently acquired Rule 5 pick Rony Garcia. When asked about why they made the decision to go with Garcia Littlefield said the team relied on a combination of analytics and scouting.
“It’s always a blend,” Littlefield replied. “Al Avila, our general manager, speaks of that often. That’s really how we make a lot of decisions in that regard.”
When asked if the team had any tweaks in mind for the young hurler, Littlefield stated that it was a bit too early to make any decisions.
“I think it would be a little bold to start making any decisions at this point. Obviously we’d like to get our hands on him and have the pitching people work with him. But we’ll be doing a lot of work leading into spring training, breaking down the breakdown of his pitches, to get a stronger feeling.”
Keeping it together
While there may some shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic, there aren’t any new ones being brought in. Ron Gardenhire lost one staff member to retirement in the offseason, moved a few around, and has settled on roughly the same crew to march into 2020 with. After a rough 2019, Gardenhire wants his staff to have the opportunity to take another crack at the egg and show that they are better than what last year showed us. The biggest move was converting Lloyd McClendon to bench coach and shifting Joe Vavra to the hitting coach spot. Gardenhire says McClendon was burnt out, and needed the change.
“I think he took a beating ever over the last couple of years trying to figure out these young hitters, so this is a good move for him.”
This may be Gardenhire’s last shot in Detroit, seeing as he is in the final season of a three-year contract and there has been no talk of an extension. If you ask him, he will tell you he is not worried. It makes me wonder if that is because he already knows he is done after this season.
Don’t walk away
When Rob Manfred stepped in as the new Commissioner of Major League Baseball, he had a pretty low bar to clear. It was hard to think he could manage the league in a manner even close to as terrible as Bud Selig did. Well, Manfred is having a real “hold my beer” moment.
In what is becoming an increasingly ugly negotiation between MLB and minor league baseball, the latest threat from the big kids is that they may walk away from minor league ball entirely. It seems the minor league teams, tired of being mischaracterized by the folks on the other side, published a public memo addressing the major league’s inaccuracies point-by-point. The response from Major League Baseball has been a threat to literally take their ball and go home. This is going super well.
The free agent pitching market continues to shrink. On Sunday night, Madison Bumgarner agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It may feel like MadBum is 40 years old, but the ace is a decade shy of that mark at 30, and the Diamondbacks figure he has got five good years left on him.
On the other side of the transactional field, the Cleveland Indians continue to enrage their fanbase by performing the equivalent of parking an expensive car in a bad neighborhood and walking away from it. In a move that sends Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers for Delino DeShields Jr. and a prospect who I’m told throws real hard, it would appear this roster is being stripped for parts. This signals the continuation of what some fear is the desire to take what by all means was a solidly competitive team and dismantle it.
Rest easy, Cleveland fans. You can take comfort in the fact that ownership is saving more money. Maybe this year is the year you hoist the coveted lowest payroll trophy and the streets of Cleveland are packed with fans excited for the extremely frugal and budget conscious celebratory parade.
Around the horn
Behind the scenes with Scott Boras at the Winter Meetings. Head over to MLB Trade Rumors and vote on where you think Nicholas Castellanos ends up. Front office employees on what the public doesn’t understand about running a baseball team.