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.”
Tyler Collins returns to the Tigers starting lineup for the first time since last Sunday. He’s over the neck issues that flared up a couple days ago. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, returns behind the plate to catch Michael Fulmer. The White Sox have two lefties going in the remaining two games of this series with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but it’ll be interesting to see if Brad Ausmus has James McCann do the quick turnaround from night game to day game, given the hot weather.
TIGERS (career numbers off Turner)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Cameron Maybin, CF (1-for-2)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Justin Upton, LF (3-for-9, 2 HR, 2 walks)
- Tyler Collins, RF
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Michael Fulmer
- Adam Eaton, RF
- Tim Anderson, SS
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Jose Abreu, 1B
- Justin Morneau, DH
- Todd Frazier, 3B
- J.B. Shuck, CF
- Tyler Saladino, 2B
- Omar Narvaez, C
P: Jacob Turner
Tyler Collins underwent a chiropractic adjustment on his neck after yesterday’s game and was feeling better after neck spasms forced him out of Wednesday’s lineup, but he’s getting one more day to rest. He could be available to hit later. Mike Aviles gets his fourth consecutive start in right field tonight against James Shields. Aviles does have decent numbers off Shields, who has given up slightly better numbers to right-handed hitters for his career.
The White Sox brought back former Tigers nemesis Justin Morneau last week. He’s a career .297 hitter against the Tigers with 23 homers and 95 RBIs in 141 games, essentially a season’s worth of work. But he hasn’t faced Detroit since August 2014, when the Rockies visited Comerica Park.
TIGERS (career numbers off Shields)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (13-for-58, 2 doubles, 4 HR, 4 walks, 4 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF (5-for-12, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (20-for-57, 9 doubles, 2 HR, 6 walks, 11 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (13-for-47, 4 doubles, HR, 9 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-13, 4 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF (0-for-2, walk)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (2-for-19, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, RF (10-for-36, double, 2 HR, walk, 5 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-6, K)
P: Mike Pelfrey
WHITE SOX (career numbers against Pelfrey)
- Adam Eaton, RF (5-for-12, triple)
- Tim Anderson, SS (3-for-4, triple)
- Melky Cabrera, LF (8-for-27, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
- Jose Abreu, 1B (4-for-14, double)
- Justin Morneau, DH (1-for-3)
- Todd Frazier, 3B (2-for-6, 2 walks, K)
- Brett Lawrie, 2B (1-for-11, K)
- J.B. Shuck, CF (1-for-11)
- Dioner Navarro, C (3-for-8, double, walk)
P: James Shields
The way Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have been hitting since the All-Star break, Brad Ausmus said he considered sitting one of them today. Their ninth-inning base hits convinced him to hold off on that.
“It crossed my mind during the game,” Ausmus said, “but they both had good swings last at-bat.”
The one notable day off is Jose Iglesias. Andrew Romine makes just his third start of the month.
TIGERS (career numbers off Ervin Santana)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (20-for-65, 6 doubles, triple, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF (1-for-3)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-22, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-31, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, double)
- Justin Upton, LF (2-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Tyler Collins, RF (3-for-6, 3 doubles, 2 K’s)
- James McCann, C (0-for-3, K)
- Andrew Romine, SS (1-for-2)
P: Justin Verlander
TWINS (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Eduardo Nunez, SS (6-for-15, 2 doubles, HR, 2 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (24-for-71, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 13 walks, 13 K’s)
- Miguel Sano, 3B (1-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (4-for-19, double, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Max Kepler, RF
- Kennys Vargas, DH (1-for-3, K)
- Eddie Rosario, LF (2-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (13-for-39, 2 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
- Byron Buxton, CF
P: Ervin Santana
Mike Aviles makes his second consecutive start, this time facing Twins lefty Tommy Milone. James McCann returns to the starting lineup after back-to-back starts for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Miguel Cabrera stays in his usual spot in what should be a good test for him. He’s 8-for-18 with three doubles for his career against Milone, but he’s 10-for-49 with a double and two RBIs over his last 14 games, and he’s batting just .193 (16-for-83) with two doubles and two homers off left-handed pitchers this season.
TIGERS (career numbers off Tommy Milone)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-19, HR, 3 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (8-for-18, 3 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-10)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-4, 2 walks, K)
- Justin Upton, LF (1-for-2, walk, K)
- Mike Aviles, RF (3-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
- James McCann, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-5, HR, K)
P: Anibal Sanchez
TWINS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)
- Eduardo Nunez, SS (3-for-8, double, triple, K)
- Robbie Grossman, LF (2-for-3)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (6-for-26, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (2-for-20, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Sano, 3B
- Max Kepler, RF
- Kennys Vargas, DH (0-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (3-for-8, walk)
- Byron Buxton, CF
P: Tommy Milone
The Tigers go with the numbers instead of the sides of the plate tonight. Though Ricky Nolasco would normally warrant a start for Tyler Collins in right field, Mike Aviles is 8-for-14 against him. On the flip side, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 1-for-11 off Nolasco but gets the start to catch Matt Boyd, who has not thrown a pitch to any other catcher in Detroit so far this season.
The Tigers get their first look this season at Byron Buxton, who they saw a few times last year. He’s in center field, batting ninth in a Twins lineup that has only one .300 hitter with leadoff man Eduardo Nunez.
TIGERS (career numbers off Nolasco)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-23, 3 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF (5-for-7, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-16, double, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-14, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (4-for-14, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 3 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF (7-for-20, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, RF (8-for-14, double, HR, K)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (1-for-11, 4 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (4-for-7, double, walk, K)
P: Matt Boyd
TWINS (career numbers vs. Boyd)
- Eduardo Nunez, SS
- Joe Mauer, 1B (0-for-2)
- Miguel Sano, 3B (0-for-2, walk, K)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-2, walk, K)
- Max Kepler, RF
- Robbie Grossman, DH
- Eddie Rosario, LF (1-for-2, triple)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (0-for-1, walk)
- Byron Buxton, CF
P: Ricky Nolasco
Justin Upton returns to the Tigers lineup after missing two games on bereavement leave. Tyler Collins makes his third consecutive start, shifting over to right field with Upton back and Steven Moya off to Toledo. Brad Ausmus said this morning that he expects a similar mix in right field with Collins and Mike Aviles that they had with Moya and Aviles, though he could play the hot bat a little more often (which would seemingly favor Collins).
TIGERS (career numbers against Yordano Ventura)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-19, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF (1-for-2, double)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-13, double, walk, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-19, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-14, walk, 6 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF (1-for-5, walk, 3 K’s)
- Tyler Collins, RF (3-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (1-for-2, walk, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-14, K)
P: Michael Fulmer
ROYALS (numbers off Fulmer)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (0-for-2)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (0-for-2, walk)
- Big Ken Morales, DH (1-for-1, 2 walks)
- Salvador Perez, C (1-for-3, HR, K)
- Alex Gordon, LF
- Paulo Orlando, RF (1-for-2, double, walk, K)
- Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B (1-for-2, K)
- Christian Colon, 2B
- Jarrod Dyson, CF
P: Yordano Ventura
With Justin Upton on bereavement, Brad Ausmus said Friday he’d have to start one of his left-handed hitting outfielders against Danny Duffy on Saturday. After Friday’s performance, Tyler Collins is the left-handed bat starting, playing in left field. Steven Moya sits amidst a 3-for-26, 15-strikeout slump since the start of the last road trip June 30.
On the Royals side, Alcides Escobar returns to the leadoff spot in the order for the first time since June 29 and the second time since June 8. Whit Merrifield, who had been getting the bulk of the starts up top, is off tonight. Alex Gordon, who received a stretch of leadoff starts before the break, is batting fifth.
On the umpiring front, Vic Carapazza is behind home plate tonight. He was in the headlines a couple weeks ago with a trio of Blue Jays ejections July 1 against the Indians at Rogers Centre. This pitch and the resulting argument was the reason behind the one-game suspension Edwin Encarnacion served against the Tigers just before the break.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Danny Duffy)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-20, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Cameron Maybin, CF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-24, 3 doubles, 8 walks, 7 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-25, double, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (6-for-18, triple, HR, 3 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, RF (4-for-15, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- James McCann, C (2-for-8, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Tyler Collins, LF (0-for-2)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-10, triple, K)
P: Mike Pelfrey
ROYALS (career numbers off Pelfrey)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (8-for-20, double)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-12, double, 5 walks, 2 K’s)
- Kendrys Morales, DH (3-for-13, double, 2 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (5-for-18, double, K)
- Alex Gordon, LF (5-for-16, triple, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Paulo Orlando, RF (0-for-3, K)
- Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B
- Christian Colon, 2B (1-for-2, walk)
- Jarrod Dyson, CF (0-for-2, walk, K)
P: Danny Duffy
With Justin Upton now on the bereavement list, J.D. Martinez on the DL and Anthony Gose at Double-A Erie, the Tigers open the second half with a completely different starting outfield than they had on Opening Day. That includes Tyler Collins, who makes his first start since his ill-advised reaction to boos for a missed catch April 25 against the A’s.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Ian Kennedy)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-9, 4 doubles)
- Cameron Maybin, CF (5-for-17, triple, 5 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-10, double, triple, walk)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-9, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Steven Moya, RF
- James McCann, C
- Tyler Collins, LF
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-3)
P: Justin Verlander
ROYALS (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Whit Merrifield, 2B (1-for-4, K)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (19-for-72, 5 doubles, triple, HR, 4 walks, 13 K’s)
- Kendrys Morales, DH (12-for-37, 4 doubles, 2 HR, 9 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (22-for-46, 7 doubles, 2 HR, 6 K’s)
- Alex Gordon, LF (17-for-82, 5 doubles, 2 HR, 11 walks, 29 K’s)
- Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B (0-for-2, walk, 2 K’s)
- Brett Eibner, RF (2-for-3, HR)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (13-for-70, 4 doubles, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Jarrod Dyson, CF (6-for-26, triple, 4 walks, 10 K’s)
P: Ian Kennedy
The Tigers will go into this weekend’s division clash against the Royals without Justin Upton. The slugging left fielder has been placed on the bereavement list.
The Tigers announced the move Friday afternoon.
By rule, a player placed on the bereavement list must stay there for at least three days but for no more than seven. To fill Upton’s spot, the Tigers recalled outfielder Tyler Collins from Triple-A Toledo.
Upton went into the All-Star break batting .235 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs. Much of that production came over Detroit’s last 30 games, during which he hit .250 with five homers and 21 RBIs.
The Tigers are already down a starting outfielder with J.D. Martinez on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured elbow. Steven Moya has been filling in for Martinez for the past few weeks, and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future while Martinez begins baseball activity.
With Anthony Gose now at Double-A Erie, the Tigers will open the second half with none of their Opening Day starting outfielders on their active roster.
Collins hit 2-for-20 with six strikeouts in 10 games with the Tigers early this season. He earned notoriety when he gave a middle finger to fans booing him for misplaying a fly ball. The 26-year-old entered Friday batting .214 at Toledo with seven homers and 30 RBIs.
The Tigers host the Royals for a three-game series beginning Friday night at Comerica Park.