Avila: “It’s not going to be real sexy at the trade deadline”
The last time the Tigers were in Chicago back in early June, Al Avila talked with reporters and laid the scene heading into the trading season. They might not do much of anything at the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, he said, because of the prospects they want to keep and the payroll they’ve already spent.
With just over a week before the Trade Deadline, Avila spoke again in Chicago. His remarks Saturday sounded much the same. They’re not sellers, but they’re not much of buyers at this point. Standing pat might be the way they go.
“Right now, I would say it’s the most realistic option, sitting here today,” he said, “which is probably what’s best for the team this year and moving forward in the future. It might not be the sexiest thing, but it is what it is.”
Their focus at this point, Avila said, is to get Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and J.D. Martinez back from the disabled list. That, Avila said, would be their major additions for the stretch run.
“Those are going to be our major acquisitions,” he said. “There’s nobody out there [on the market] better than Jordan Zimmermann if he comes back healthy.”
Part of the reason, Avila said, is financial, given they’re already into luxury tax territory:
“We have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and we put this team together in the wintertime thinking this is the team that’s going to compete and get us into the playoffs, and we’re going to stay that course. And at this point, we don’t really want to trade away our good young prospects for a two-month rental.”
Another problem, and potentially a bigger one, is the cost in terms of prospects, many of which the Tigers want to keep at this point.
“I actually have been in contact with several GMs that have been in sell mode about their pitching,” Avila said, “and the asking price is too high right now. And even if you’re talking about a fifth starter, I’m looking at some teams where we can maybe upgrade. And if you talk to our scouts in our system, the acquisition of the quality of the pitcher in our opinion does not really put us over the top or over the edge that much to say it warrants a big payback in a trade. So right now, nothing has made sense.
“So I have been in contact with several GMs and teams, as have my assistants with their respective colleagues in their fields and nothing has really come up where we feel good that hey we can get this guy, this guy can really be the difference that’s going to take us there. Nothing like that has come up. There has been already conversations for the last two weeks.”
That goes for a lot of the market in general, Avila said.
“You keep on hearing the names of the Yankee relievers, Chapman and Miller and all that,” he continued. “But we’ve been hearing those names since the winter. And nothing’s happened, because the price is high, I’m sure. A lot of talk, I don’t know how much movement there’s going to be. That’s why for us, the best thing is to kind of try to stay away from that. First of all, I don’t even know if we have the amount of guys that are going to be needed, and the quality of guys, because in the past, anytime we’ve talked about any pitcher of any significance, the guys that we’re asked about are the guys we don’t want to trade, in Norris and Fulmer. And that goes all the way back to the wintertime.
“So can you imagine if I would’ve traded Norris and Fulmer back in the wintertime for whoever? Right now, we would’ve not been in this situation. We would’ve been in a bad situation. So that’s what we’re trying to avoid. That’s why we want to keep these guys and move forward in that frame of mind.”
Asked if he sees the Tigers as a championship-caliber team, Avila said, “I do. And if you talk to most baseball people, they’ll tell you: We have a real good lineup. Now I know we haven’t clicked on all gears throughout the whole season. I know Upton is now having a pretty good July, and hopefully he keeps that going. Miguel had a bad month but he had a great day [Friday], hopefully he gets rolling. If our team gets rolling to their capabilities, it’s one of the better lineups in baseball.
“Our pitching is the same thing. If you’ve seen our bullpen, when they’re clicking, that’s a pretty good bullpen. Our starting pitchers is the same thing. Jordan Zimmermann was outstanding until he pulled his groin and the neck muscle [strain] came along. So you gotta figure if he comes back healthy and gets back to form, he doesn’t have to pitch as great as he was at the beginning but he just has to go out there and be the regular Jordan Zimmermann. You guys have seen Verlander, he’s been great. Boyd had a great last outing and Fulmer’s been fantastic so this is a team that can compete. This is a team that can get us into the playoffs and we just have to get back to guys that are injured, we’ve gotta stay healthy and we just have to be more consistent and I believe this team has the capabilities of doing that and we have a great manager to lead the way.”
More from Avila …
On right field: “Right field is a huge concern. We brought up Moya. He actually gave us a spark there for the first few weeks. He hit the ball very well. But I think where you saw the biggest drawback was on defense, and that’s why we sent him back to Toledo, not so much because of the hitting but because of the defense. He needed more work there. We needed to take him away from that pressure of the pennant race here to get him back in gear, because really he is not that bad defensively. I’m not saying he’s a Gold Glover by any means and I don’t believe he’s going to be a Gold Glover. But he’s going to be an average defender, and he has been. But I think up here, the pennant race and his youth got to him a little bit. Now we’ve got to get him restarted.”
On Anthony Gose: “Well, he’s in Erie right now. He’s playing on a regular basis. He’s a talented kid. He can run like the wind. He’s a really good defensive outfielder, in my opinion. The main thing about him is we got to get his bat going. If he gets his bat going, he can fight his way back to the big leagues right from there. … Everybody has their ups and downs. Sometimes guys, in the heat of the moment, say things that they don’t mean. Sometimes they do things that they regret later on, and they move on from that. They grow, they learn and they mature. It’s a process. No different with Anthony Gose. If you talk with anybody in this clubhouse or in minor league baseball, he’s not a bad guy. He’s a good guy. It’s just that sometimes guys when they don’t perform, the frustration level gets to them and those kind of things sometime happen. We don’t like to see it, but unfortunately they do happen and you just have to deal with them and hopefully he learns from it and grows from it and comes back a better man.”
On Joe Jimenez as a potential late-season option for the bullpen: “Well, I’ve gotta tell you, I would hope to not have to use him. But I think at the end of the day, if we had to, I can’t rule it out 100 percent. But right now, our preference is to leave him right there and not have to use him up here.”