The Detroit Tigers made headlines on Friday when they announced that Al Avila and the club had agreed to a contract extension. While we don’t know the length of the new deal, it’s almost sure to be at least two or three years longer than his current contract, which was set to expire at the end of the 2020 season.
The reaction to the news has been mixed, but passionate. Fans and media types alike are fired up.
The news is nearly 24 hours old at this point, so let’s jump right in.
This week’s question: What do you think of Al Avila’s contract extension?
Adam: I’m not very happy about it, but I’m also not very surprised either. The timing is a bit odd, as I would have preferred to have seen how Avila was able to finish off the season — especially how he navigates the trade deadline — before handing out an extension. While I can see why the ownership might want to stay the course, I have been one of those who have been thirsting for fresh blood in the front office.
Peter: I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. The rebuild wasn’t going to be finished by the end of 2020, so it does makes some sense to let the man with the plan see it through. It’s clear his (and ownership’s) focus is only on the future. I might have wanted to see how Avila handled the trade deadline this year before extending him. There’s an argument to be made that he waited too long to move Michael Fulmer and Nicholas Castellanos, though that comes with a fair bit of hindsight. I don’t think there’s a magic way to turn around the franchise and make the playoffs in the next three years, outside of what is basically being done now. All eyes will be on the farm now, and it had better work out, for both Avila and Chris Ilitch’s sake. Avila needs to keep stocking and developing above-average talent in-house, and Ilitch better support his investment with payroll increases when the big contracts come off the books. The Tigers are all in on Avila; hopefully they make sure they give him the best chance to pull it off.
Chris: Short answer, meh. Longer answer, I’m not surprised by it, but I’m not necessarily in support of it. Like Adam said, seeing how the rest of the season played out would have been ideal in seeing what direction to take. The plague of injuries to starting pitching and the middle infield is hardly his fault, but it’s not like Tyson Ross, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison were setting the world on fire when they were healthy. Some of the backward steps taken this year — jumping the gun and shelling out what they did for Mercer, not even kicking the tires on some marked upgrades in free agency, the showcase of the lack of depth in the minors, re-treading with guys like Ryan Carpenter and Drew VerHagen — has shown that some fresh blood and a new approach may be necessary. To Avila’s credit, the last two drafts have addressed some need positions and have contained some high upside guys. But it’s on him to see that these guys reach their potential ceilings, or else we’re in for a rocky road ahead.
Patrick: Avila has done absolutely nothing to deserve a contract extension. He has had four seasons to assemble a major league team and what the Tigers have is a below replacement level lineup that is barely fit for Triple-A ball. Worse yet, there are few (if any) position prospects who project to be above-average major league players. Avila made more bad free agent signings in one winter than Dave Dombrowski made in 15 years. He has made no international free agent signings of note, and maybe one trade — Leonys Martin for Willi Castro — that registers on the radar for the future. He has done what his owner wanted; he slashed payroll well below the major league average, and increased profits.
Zane: I’m not a huge Avila fan or anything, but continuity at least reduces the chance that this rebuild is a bust. How many times has a rebuilding GM been fired just for another to come in and do things their way, only to make a team suck for another 5-10 years? At least Avila is trying to pull a Jeff Luhnow or Sam Hinkie. If the Tigers brought in new management, there’s a solid chance they do another reset and we start this process all over again. We’ll all have a good laugh if Avila fails to find any good trades at the deadline for Castellanos, Matthew Boyd, and Shane Greene, of course. We’re banking on player development right now, and to be fair, that’s the way baseball is trending, but we should be spending more on guys right now to flip for prospects. Not all of our resources are being fully utilized. Avila’s trading has been subpar as well, with only two clear “wins” in the trade column so far. The J.D. Martinez trade was laughably bad. The competitive balance pick would have been much better, and in general, we need stronger position players in the farm.
Zane again: The Tigers have chosen to go with a pitching-heavy farm for this rebuild, and with the way MLB contracts are going, can you blame them? Patrick Corbin just received a six-year, $140 million contract, while Michael Brantley signed for two years and $32 million. D.J. LeMahieu signed for two years and $20 million. Do we really need a bunch of club-friendly hitter contracts if we have a wealth of club-friendly pitching? I actually love that Avila chose this direction for the farm.
Brady: I’ve wanted to defend Avila for a long time. He has done some good things for the rebuild in nice draft selections and trades, especially taking Matt Manning and trading for Isaac Paredes, but there is not much to love past that causing my confidence to wane significantly. The easy scapegoats are the J.D. Martinez trade and Jordan Zimmermann signings. To me, there has been more bad than good done by this regime at the major league level. The refusal to test exciting prospects like Willi Castro is frustrating, and it is a bad look, whether it’s Avila’s own philosophy or he’s following orders from above.
More Zane: Just to play devil’s advocate, I’ll point out a few other things that people don’t bring up too often.
- Avila was responsible for bringing JD Martinez to Detroit.
- The Jordan Zimmermann signing is the only very bad deal Avila has handed out. As great as Dave Dombrowski was, he completely mishandled everything the moment Jim Leyland left. He hired Brad Ausmus, he lowballed Max Scherzer, and he extended Miguel Cabrera.
- In the first three drafts Avila had while general manager of the Tigers, he selected Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Casey Mize, our big top pitching prospects. Yes, Mize was a no-brainer, but Manning at No. 9 overall and Faedo at 18th appear to have been clever selections.
We have to see Avila’s rebuild through. Ditching him in the middle of it would make no sense. I think Chris summed it up best when he said “meh.” I’d much rather be an Astros or Dodgers fan whose team can sign the Max Muncys, Charlie Mortons, and Ryan Presslys of the world and turn them into star players. If Avila follows through on his promise and starts spending on 2021 — and he has followed through on his word on everything else so far — I’d say “meh” is a perfect summary of what we have here.
Ashley: We’re here round-tabling and Zane straight up writes an article.
Brady: I feel they drafted well last month and I have confidence in Avila’s ability to flip Boyd and Greene for exciting prospects. That said, the extension feels premature. Perhaps Chris Ilitch doesn’t care. It’s felt that way ever since the team nose-dived in the standings. I feel it would have been much more appropriate to wait even just another month for all the trade dust to settle and evaluate how Avila has done at that point.
Rob: I agree with that last part. The rebuild is incomplete right now. We can grade Avila based on the moves he’s made so far, and they’re not great on the surface, but he’s basically only halfway through the final project right now.
Ashley: I’m trying very hard to care about the extension, but I really don’t think I hate or love it. I think the Tigers have shown that they’re committed to seeing this rebuild through the way they have it planned, and the minutiae of that is likely not something we’ll ever be privy to. If extending Avila now lays the course for their idea of this rebuild, good for them I guess. He hasn’t been a disaster, but this is just one more thing in a long line of things that makes me wonder just how fast they really plan to see this team come back into contention. I think the answer is that we had better brace ourselves, because winter is here, and Al is on the Iron Throne whether we like it or not.
Adam: Is the Iron Throne a good or bad thing?
Rob: Well, who’s Drogon in this instance?
Ashley: Fans, probably.
Brady: We’re going to burn him to a crisp then carry away our dead mom?
Rob: Alright we’re done here.