It is that time of season again and as usual, the criticism of Al Avila just runs rampant. I am not saying he should be shielded from critical remarks but some of the criticism I believe is extreme and unfair. I think if everyone takes a closer look at the day he took over as GM and what he was tasked to do, I firmly believe he has done an above average job. He took over on August 5th 2015 after a long and successful run by Dave Dombrowski. Mr. Illitch then gave Al Avila an edict to make another run. So what did Al Avila do? He went out and signed Jordan Zimmerman late 2015 and then signed Justin Upton in the beginning of 2016.
Detroit had to sacrificed its 2nd and 3rd round picks for those signings
Dave Dombrowski got himself fired by standing up to Mr. Illitch and saying he could not win this team and it was time to make trades and re-tool. Al Avila came in and had to do what Mr. Illitch wanted and it has NOTHING to do with his plan or vision. The signing of Upton and Zimmerman handcuffed a team that was already devoid of minor league talent and saddled the team with huge contracts. What did they get for Upton? A player who just quit baseball. What are they going to get for Zimmerman? Nothing. Sacrificed a 2nd & 3rd round pick for zilch!
Dave Dombrowski knew the time had come to stop, re-tool and start keeping the prospects. Had Mr. Illitch actually listened to him, the Tigers would have had two more draft picks and who knows what players they would have drafted. Luckily, they had a protected 1st round pick to select Manning or else things would be looking much worse. People are ragging on Al Avila for his poor trade of JD but it was quite clear by the time he had to trade JD, who was having an awesome year, there was no one willing to give up high prospects for a power hitter. Look around, no one is giving up the farm anymore unless its for a top notch pitcher. Everyone knew Detroit was not going to be able to sign him so he was is the worst position possible and with no leverage. Boston stole him for 110 million dollars but he is strictly a DH. Castellanos is in the same position and Al Avila has a guy who can’t play the field so who is going to give up top prospects for a one dimensional player? He can MASH the heck out of LHP so some team might give up one mid level prospect but not 2 or 3 prospects and no top prospect.
Al Avila Drafts:
Went into the 2016 draft with NO 2nd round or 3rd round pick and drafted Matt Manning. The rest TBD WIN
2017 draft Alex Faedo, Joe Morgan, Sam McMillan- WIN, the two C’s if they do not make the Tigers, both have upside and can be used in a trade as C’s are always in demand.-the rest TBD
2018 draft Casey Mize, Parker Meadows, Kody Clemens, Tarik Skrubal the rest TBD WIN
2019 draft Riley Greene-the rest TBD
2019 International Signing-Tigers still did not land a top 30 pick which still gets underneath my skin but at least they did identify a player from Cuba that after all the international picks get re-evaluated in a few years, may have a top 30 player from the group that was available. I would still like to see the TIgers go all in a few top players instead of spreading it around. I am hoping that when they make these trades at the deadline, they get some additional international spending money. The Yankees are masters at this and in the last few years, they made many trades and received international money back as part of the trade. Al Avila needs to do more of this because there are high quality guys which will help him speed up the rebuild immensely.
Al Avila Trades:
The Justin Upton trade netted nothing but it was a salary dump that was required because Mr. Illitch was the one who wanted to sign him. The Justin Verlander trade was a very good trade as 2 players are already at AAA and the jewel of the trade has yet to stay healthy but he is only 20 so IF he can finally get healthy, he will be part of the Tigers in 2022. The Justin Wilson trade was a great trade in the sense the Tigers still have the two players and one is at the MLB level still working out the kinks (Candelario) and the jewel of the trade (Paredes) is on the fast track to the majors and should be here by 2021. The Cubs have zero to show for that trade.
The possible trades of Castellanos,Greene, Boyd could help people forget about the JD trade and I think Al Avila is finally in a better position because his players are healthy and two are having great years. Castellanos has come on lately and if he can stay hot in July, his value will only get better. The JD trade should not be looked at as his defining moment and especially since they signed him for next to nothing and if he played a better brand of defense, Avila would have had a much better return. Stop berating him for a bad situation and a bad market.
What do you think Al Avila could have done better since August of 2016? He was tasked to trade bad contracts, draft good players and then hire a better manager. He also had to watch VMART crumble to a shell of his hey day, (another bad contract that Mr. Illitch gave to him) has had to watch Miggy break down and go on the DL, Fulmer break down go on the DL, free agent signings break down go on the DL, DL DL DL. In my opinion, he deserves until 2021 so there is time to evaluate this trading deadline, 2020 draft and the 2020 trade deadline. If by 2021 the team is not at least .500 and looking good, then yes, lets take a look, and see if the Tigers need someone new to take them to the next level. If a change is needed, I would grab someone from the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, or Padres system because those guys kill it every year in the international market and year after year in the draft.
As a reminder, the Astros lost over 100 games during a 4 year stretch (2011-2014) and the Cubs lost over 300 games during a 3 year stretch (2011-2013) so spare me with the whining about how bad the Tigers currently are because we ALL knew things were going to be bad, very bad and so does it matter if they lost 98 games or 110 games? Not really! They have lost 98 and 98 will lose over 100 this year and over 100 next year so I think they will resemble more of an Astros turnaround then the Cubs. The Tigers have the number 8 best minor league rated list of players and will move up to top 5 after the 2020 draft comes around. By 2021, many of these players will be the core of the team and then Al will have a chance to go and get some free agents. Just remember, Miggy’s contract is worse than most people realize and luckily he is at least hitting .300 and driving in runs. Had they moved in the fences, Miggy and VMARTS demise would not have been so bad but they work in a place where a homer in 95% of the parks are just long fly balls. You want to place some blame? How about the architect of this monstrosity.