Al Avila talks free-agent spending, bullpen fixes on MLB Network
Al Avila made his first appearance as Tigers general manager on MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show, which started back up Wednesday. I believe he was the first GM on the show this offseason, though Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro beat him to first executive on the show yesterday. You can view the 10-minute segment above.
Nothing Avila said was all that different from expectations, though he got into offseason spending given their payroll. He confirmed they’re unlikely to be spending as big as some recent winters, given how many needs they have and the payroll space available.
“I would say it is probably more restrictive this year, just because we have the money invested in so many guys already,” Avila said. “But in saying that, we still want to go out there and try to win a championship, so we will be out there in the free agent market trying to do the best we can with that money that we have.
“We have to strengthen ourselves with our pitching. We are happy that Verlander really finished the season real strong the last 2 1/2 months. He showed us that he can be the pitcher that we need him to be. Sanchez also at the end of the year was healthy and ready to go. We decided just to keep him down. He went on and went through his strength and conditioning, and that is what he is doing right now, so he is healthy. So, those two guys coming back really give us a lift and positive hope going into next year.
“Saying that then, we need to go out and get two more starting pitchers. The reason I say that is because some of the young guys that we have that we like, we would like to not push them so much where we are going in with three young guys per se and try to win a championship. You can add one guy in there, but you can’t have three.”
The annual question of the Tigers bullpen and how to fix it also came up. In answering it, Avila referenced internal options, either through the relievers they already have or through moving starters around.
“Well, the bullpen has always been a mystery to a lot of clubs. It’s not just the Detroit Tigers,” Avila said. “I would say the best way to fix your bullpen, in reality, is to have your own players homegrown, knowing what you have got coming through the system and then putting them out there. That is really the best way for do it. Now, in saying that, when you don’t have that coming through, then you have to go out and acquire players either via trade or free agency. That is all we are trying to do.
“We are evaluating the possible in-house candidates that can go out and close out games or be an eighth inning guy. We can evaluate that process, and we’ll make decisions in Spring Training. But at the same time now, here in the offseason we have to target the best available relievers that we can and see which one or which ones we end up acquiring. So it is a combination of both. You can’t just say, ‘I am going to give this guy an opportunity from within,’ and not try to do due diligence and either acquire a guy through free agency or trades. But if everybody had their druthers and the perfect situation is, you bring a guy up through the system. He gets the experience, taught through the system. Then you bring him to the big leagues, and you put him in there in a less stressful role, and within time you put him there in the back end, and he ends up being your guy. That is really the best way to do it.”