Alex Avila Rumors

Tigers Notes: Davis, Avila, Ausmus

It was on this day in 1999 that the Tigers played their final game at Tiger Stadium, closing out the old ballpark with an 8-2 win over the Royals.  In addition to 88 years of Tigers baseball, the stadium also notably hosted Detroit Lions football, a Joe Louis heavyweight title fight, concerts and numerous other events over the years.  On a personal note, my dad once attended a game at Tiger Stadium and mostly enjoyed the experience…though his seat was directly behind a support pole that blocked his view of home plate.  Here’s the latest from the Motor City:

  • Rajai Davis tells’s Chris Iott that he “absolutely” wants to return to the Tigers in 2016.  Iott feels the veteran outfielder is a good fit as a right-handed hitting outfield option, especially since Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins and Steven Moya are all lefty bats; Detroit could indeed go with a Davis/Gose platoon in center field again.
  • Alex Avila also wants to remain with the Tigers, though he told reporters (including ESPN’s Katie Strang) that “if there was a team out there that would give me the opportunity to play more, I’d have to look at that for sure.”  Avila himself acknowledged that James McCann will be Detroit’s starting catcher in 2016.  It’s hard to see Avila landing anything more than a backup job elsewhere given his injury history, so if he does accept that role, it makes sense that he would first look to remain in a familiar situation with his long-time team.
  • Brad Ausmus will be returning as the Tigers manager, though Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press feels the team should extend Ausmus’ contract if it’s really set on making a commitment to him.  2016 is Ausmus’ last guaranteed year and the Tigers have a club option on his services for 2017.  Sharp feels that “bringing Ausmus back without an extension only further reaffirms the larger indecisiveness regarding the direction of this franchise” and making Ausmus a veritable lame duck won’t help anyone.  I’m not sure I agree with Sharp here; a one-year/one-option situation isn’t too unusual for a manager, and if the Tigers indeed rebound next year, surely Ausmus will then get an extension.
  • In his latest Insider-only column, ESPN’s Buster Olney raises the interesting point that given some of the Tigers’ roster issues, “being fired might’ve been the best thing for Brad Ausmus’ career as a manager” since he is highly thought-of around baseball and would’ve easily found another job (perhaps in a better situation).  Another season managing a struggling team, however, could lower Ausmus’ stock.

AL Central Links: Indians, Avila, Berrios

The Indians have a lot of offseason work ahead of them, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, particularly when it comes to upgrading the team’s lineup.  The Tribe could use help at several spots around the diamond, and Hoynes intriguingly wonders how much the club could be counting on from Carlos Santana in 2016.  Santana entered today hitting .222/.355/.381 with 12 homers and a league-leading 74 walks over 439 plate appearances — still above-average offensive numbers (109 wRC+), though the power dropoff has to be a concern for Cleveland.  The Tribe wasn’t interested in dealing him before the deadline and since Santana is owed only $8.25MM in 2016 (plus a $12MM club option for 2017 with a $1.2MM buyout), I’d think he’s enough of a cost-effective asset that it makes more sense for the offense-starved Indians to keep him.  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Also from Hoynes’ piece, he doubts the Indians will make any big moves in free agency given how little return they got from Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Tribe’s last two major steps into the open market.
  • Alex Avila‘s pending free agency creates even more of an awkward position for both he and the Tigers now that his father Al is the team’s general manager, Fangraphs’ David Laurila writes.  “No one doubts the professionalism of either Avila,” Laurila notes, though the catcher’s concussion history, lack of hitting and James McCann‘s emergence hurts his case to return to Detroit.  Though retirement isn’t necessarily in the cards for the younger Avila anytime soon, Laurila notes that Alex has been tabbed by many as a potential future manager or front office member once he calls it a career.
  • In other Detroit front office news, Laurila also noted Sam Menzin’s promotion to the Tigers‘ director of baseball operations and calls Menzin “a future GM.”
  • Jose Berrios is performing well in Triple-A and, with the Twins‘ rotation struggling, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press suggests that Minnesota could turn to its top pitching prospect.  Twins assistant GM Rob Antony didn’t give any hints about a promotion, though he did praise Berrios and noted that the organization had no plans to shut the righty down as he approaches his career high in innings.  The Twins picked Berrios 32nd overall in the 2012 draft, and he ranked highly in preseason prospect lists from (32nd) and Baseball America (36th), as well as a bump up to 19th on BA’s midseason top 50 prospects list.

Reactions To The Tigers’ Front Office Changes

The Tigers shook up their front office earlier today, shocking many by announcing that Dave Dombrowski would no longer serve as the team’s general manager and that long-time Dombrowski lieutenant Al Avila would assume the role of executive vice president and general manager. Said Tigers owner Mike Ilitch in today’s press release: “I’ve decided to release Dave from his contract in order to afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities.”

Some more details on the decision, reactions to the move and a few rumors as to where Dombrowski may or may not end up…

  • Yahoo’s Jeff Passan writes that Dombrowski has become the biggest free agent on the market, and his contract, wherever he signs, should begin the trend of correcting the undervalued nature of executives. Dombrowski was earning roughly $3MM per season, but Passan wonders why the top minds tasked with overseeing a Major League team, six minor league clubs, domestic and international scouting departments, and much more earn just a fraction of what a back-of-the-rotation starter would earn on the free agent market. Passan notes that while Andrew Friedman’s reported five-year, $35MM contract with the Dodgers was a step toward correcting that inefficiency, the coming payday for Dombrowski should serve as a further benchmark for the future salaries of executives. Passan lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Mariners and Brewers as speculative landing spots for Dombrowski, adding that the Blue Jays have considered him over the past year while seeking a replacement for retiring CEO Paul Beeston.
  • USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that Dombrowski was seeking a raise, but the specific reasons for the split between the two sides remain unknown. Nightengale opines that the Red Sox make the most sense for Dombrowski, though he speculatively lists the same teams as Passan did, adding in the Orioles (which would make sense if GM Dan Duquette does end up taking a higher position with another team this winter). Nightengale writes that Dombrowski’s trade deadline actions spoke volumes about his integrity, as he knew that his departure could be imminent but still found a way to convince Ilitch to authorize the trades of David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria to create a brighter future for Detroit, even if he wouldn’t be around to be a part of it.
  • At today’s press conference, Avila said that Brad Ausmus will continue to serve as the Tigers manager for the rest of the season, writes’s Chris Iott“[Ausmus] is our manager for the rest of this season for sure,” said Avila. “I have all the confidence in him. I think he’s done a good job. Just like everything else from here on out, everything will be evaluated. Our staff will be evaluated. Our major-league club will be evaluated as we have done in years past.”
  • In a second piece, Iott writes that Avila acknowledged being in an “awkward” position by inheriting the job as GM of the team for which his son, Alex Avila, plays. The newly minted GM recants the story of the 2008 draft, when he asked that the organization not draft his son. He says now that the organization made the right call when looking at the body of work his son has compiled, but he made it clear that there won’t be any nepotism at play when deciding the team’s future. “You know how you go back to Little League and the dad used to be the coach and his son always played and was the fourth batter?” the elder Avila rhetorically asked reporters. “That ain’t gonna happen here.”
  • The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo writes that Dombrowski’s sudden free agency places him “on a silver platter” before the Red Sox, who could use a set of eyes to oversee GM Ben Cherington. Team sources tell Cafardo that Cherington isn’t going anywhere, but adding someone of Dombrowski’s caliber to oversee the baseball operations department and help in the trading department — where Dombrowski has long excelled — would be a boost to the organization. Cafardo also spoke to Yankees GM Brian Cashman about the news. Cashman told Cafardo that he was “shocked” to hear of it, adding that Dombrowski could get a job “any place he wants.”
  • There figures to be plenty of speculation as to where Dombrowski lands, but for the time being, the Red Sox may not be that place, writes Gordon Edes of Edes cites a Red Sox source in stating that the team is not pursuing Dombrowski for an executive role.
  • Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald cites a Major League source in writing that the Red Sox do plan to reach out to Dombrowski, but a match looks “iffy.” Any conversations with Dombrowski would be due diligence, but Silverman says there’s “informed speculation within baseball circles” that Dombrowski could be Toronto-bound, and he also notes that Dombrowski’s philosophies don’t necessarily line up with the strong analytical tendencies of the Boston front office.
  • Suffice it to say, there are conflicting reports and opinions when it comes to the Red Sox and Dombrowski, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that he’s heard rumblings that Dombrowski could indeed be in the mix for the Red Sox.
  • ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that there’s buzz in the industry that Dombrowski will end up as the new president of the Blue Jays, though despite those rumblings, today’s news was unexpected.
  • Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times tweeted shortly after the news of Dombrowski’s departure that Angels sources to whom he spoke didn’t envision Dombrowski landing in Anaheim.

Twins Monitoring Market For Catchers

The Twins are “closely monitoring” the market for catchers, including the likes of A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Norris, Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Avila, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

It’s not certain at this time how available each of those names might be, but Berardino writes that the Braves are open to trading Pierzynski, which comes as no surprise when considering that he’s a 38-year-old veteran playing on a one-year deal for a club that is seven games back in its division. One can imagine that the Tigers, who as of last night are reportedly planning to be sellers at the trade deadline, would be open to moving free-agent-to-be Avila.

Pierzynski has a $2MM base salary in 2015, of which roughly $841K remains. His contract also contains incentives based on games started behind the plate. To this point, he’s already earned $100K for reaching 60 starts, and he’ll earn an additional $50K for his 65th, 70th, 75th and 80th starts at catcher. He’ll earn $100K every fifth start from 80 through 100, allowing him to max out at $2.7MM. He’s hitting .280/.316/.432 with six homers this season, and it’s also worth noting (as Berardino points out) that the Twins reportedly made Pierzynski a two-year offer to return to Minnesota prior to the 2014 season. He instead chose to sign with Boston.

Minnesota’s plenty familiar with Avila, whom they’ve watched behind the plate for the Tigers dating back to 2009. However, he’s earning a not-insignificant $5.4MM this season and has played in only 34 games, hitting .192/.333/.293. Avila’s career behind the plate has been threatened by concussions, and as a club that is more than familiar with the ill effects of concussions (see: Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Corey Koskie), the Twins may desire more certainty.

Both Norris and Lucroy would represent long-term upgrades over incumbent Kurt Suzuki as opposed to mere rentals. Norris is under club control through 2018 and is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, but he’s also struggled in his transition from Oakland to San Diego. Norris has followed up a .270/.361/.403 line in 2014 with a .231/.278./.401 line in 2015. He’s certainly hitting for more power — he has a 38 point increase in his ISO, and his 11 homers already top last year’s 10 — but his walk rate and average have plummeted. Norris’ line-drive rate is down from 18.7 percent to 12.9 percent, which, paired with an increased strikeout rate, helps to explain the dip in his average.

Lucroy could very well be the prize of the catching market. He’s a premium defender in terms of both controlling the running game and pitch framing, and he’s also produced a .291/.353/.455 batting line dating back to 2012. His production has been slowed this season, in part by a fractured toe sustained earlier in the year. However, he’s hitting .274/.335/.382 dating back to June 1, and two of his three homers this season have come in the past eight games. Lucroy’s contract, though, is perhaps the most appealing part about a potential acquisition; he’s earning $3MM in 2015 before a $4MM payday in 2016 and a $5.25MM club option for the 2017 season.

That Minnesota is seeking an upgrade behind the plate is reasonable, considering the difficulty that Suzuki has had at the plate since signing a two-year, $12MM extension on July 31 last year. Suzuki had an excellent first half in Minnesota, but it was largely BABIP driven, and he closed out the year hitting .248/.290/.366. This year’s been even worse for the former A’s/Nats backstop, as he’s hitting just .227/.283/.303, making him one of the least effective bats in baseball. He’s also caught just 19 percent of attempted base stealers — 13 percent below the league average. The Twins, though, value the comfort that the pitching staff has with Suzuki, his clubhouse presence and his durability.Those positive traits, of course, would still be in play were he to transition to a backup role, even if only for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Mets, Tigers, Yankees, Coghlan

The Mets appear to be keeping tabs on Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segurareports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. Of the two, Ramirez is the more practical target for New York. He is expected to retire after the season and does not have a no-trade clause. The Mets are also interested in Ben Zobrist, but they believe other teams will outbid them.

  • The Tigers may not need to buy at the trade deadline due to the impending returns of Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon, and Alex Avila. The lineup has struggled to push runs across the plate, but they lead the AL in OBP. When asked by Rosenthal, GM Dave Dombrowski said there are no scenarios under which the club could become deadline sellers. That means David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alfredo Simon are unlikely to be traded.
  • The Yankees rotation may not be a priority at the trade deadline if the current starters remain healthy. In addition to the current options, Ivan Nova will begin a rehab assignment soon. Prospects Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell provide further depth. The club could still acquire a star like Cole Hamels, but GM Brian Cashman says some of their top prospects are untouchable.
  • The easiest position for the Cubs to upgrade is left field. Chris Coghlan is hitting just .224/.298/.421 on the season. An unusually low .245 BABIP explains his low average. The club could hope for BABIP regression or replace him in one of several ways. They could trade for somebody like Zobrist. Alternatively, Javier Baez could be promoted to man third base with Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.

AL Central Notes: Johnson, Aviles, Lindor, Avila

The White Sox yesterday made the decision to option second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A, recalling fellow infielder Carlos Sanchez to fill his spot on the roster and on the diamond. The 22-year-old Sanchez hit .344/.368/.466 in 137 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, whereas Johnson slashed a mere .270/.333/.297 in the Majors. Johnson is the more highly regarded prospect of the two, but as’s Scott Merkin writes, GM Rick Hahn said he considers the demotion a “minor setback on the path to what we believe will be a successful big league career.” Second base has been one of many weak spots for the White Sox this season — a subject that Jeff Todd and I discussed in running through a surprising AL Central division on the latest MLBTR Podcast.

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • Thoughts and prayers go out to Indians utility man Mike Aviles who, as’s Zack Meisel writes, learned last week that his four-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia. Manager Terry Francona said that it’s possible Aviles will join the team this weekend. However, he could also be placed on the restricted list, thereby allowing him to take as much time as he needs to be with his family. That move would allow the club to add another player to the 25-man roster in Aviles’ place. We at MLBTR wish Aviles and his family the best in an unfathomably difficult time.
  • In a second article, Meisel breaks down the Indians‘ shortstop situation, noting that the team is in a difficult place. Cleveland had hoped that the issue of when to promote top prospect Francisco Lindor would be a challenge due to the strong play of Jose Ramirez. Instead, however, it’s a challenge because Ramirez is struggling so badly. As Meisel notes, the Indians almost certainly would like to keep Lindor in Triple-A until mid-to-late June in order to minimize the chance of him achieving Super Two status. However, the present roster is lacking alternatives. Aviles could replace him once he is ready to rejoin the roster, but the other primary alternative, Zach Walters has struggled quite a bit at the plate since being acquired by Cleveland.
  • Tigers catcher Alex Avila is opting not to undergo surgery to repair the knee injury that has landed him on the disabled list, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. According to Avila, multiple doctors suggested that he could potentially use a rest and rehab program to avoid surgery and get back on the field sooner than the expected 4-6 weeks he’d have missed with arthroscopic surgery. Avila is on the disabled list with a “loose body” in his knee, but doctors now believe that the abnormality in his knee is not actually loose. “They’re not convinced that it’s a loose body,” said manager Brad Ausmus. “There’s something in there, but they’re not convinced that it’s loose.” Avila is due to hit free agency following the 2015 season.

Alex Avila Heads To DL, Surgery Likely

The Tigers have placed catcher Alex Avila on the disabled list, and he will probably need arthroscopic surgery to address a loose body (likely a piece of bone) in his left knee, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press writes. The surgery would keep Avila out for two to six weeks. “Knee’s been bothering me so we had it checked out,” says Avila. “According to the doctor I have a loose body in there and so today we’re going to get a second opinion and go from there.”

The Tigers promoted catcher Bryan Holaday to take Avila’s place on the active roster, although James McCann will likely take over the starting role while Avila is out. Avila, 28, was batting .200/.342/.317 in 74 plate appearances this season. He is eligible for free agency next winter, at which point the 24-year-old McCann could take over in the starting role full-time.

NL West Notes: Shields, Stewart, Dickerson

It’s been a wild day of major moves in the NL West, and here are a few more news items from around the division…

  • The Giants don’t intend to pursue Max Scherzer, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter link).
  • The Giants “will go hard on” signing James Shields, Peter Gammons tweets.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including Zach Buchanan of  that Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro or Tigers catcher Alex Avila could be fits for his team in their search for help behind the plate, while the Snakes have no interest in Geovany Soto.  Stewart said his team doesn’t intend to trade relief pitching to obtain a catcher, however.
  • Also from Stewart, he said the D’Backs aren’t looking into extending any players at the present time, though he named Mark Trumbo, Addison Reed, Oliver Perez, Chris Owings, Chase Anderson and A.J. Pollock as possible extension candidates.
  • The Rockies are receiving “massive interest” in Corey Dickerson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).  Despite all this interest, Colorado would have to get an overwhelming offer to deal the outfielder.
  • Also from Rosenthal, it’s been nothing but “crickets” for the Rockies on interest in Troy Tulowitzki.

AL Notes: Avila, Cabrera, Athletics, PawSox

The Tigers plan on having Alex Avila as their primary catcher in 2015, despite his issues with concussions, but that will probably be his last season with them, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports. Since hitting .295/.389/.506 for the Tigers in 2011, Avila’s offensive production has declined, though he remains a strong defensive catcher. In preparation for his departure via free agency, the team will create opportunities for 24-year-old rookie James McCann in 2015. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • After yesterday’s acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the Athletics, the Blue Jays are still trying to re-sign Melky Cabrera, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. That makes sense, of course — the Jays have a hole in the outfield, and they can use another batter who can hit left-handed. A recent report indicated that Cabrera would prefer to sign with a team that doesn’t play on turf, as the Blue Jays do, although Cabrera himself recently tweeted that he didn’t care whether he played on turf or grass.
  • Billy Beane says the Athletics are unlikely to sign a free agent shortstop, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California tweets. They have a big hole at the position given the departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency, but it isn’t a strong market, with Lowrie, Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera as the headliners. That the A’s are already bowing out could be an indication that they plan to address the position with a trade.
  • Part of the Red Sox‘ ownership is preparing to buy the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The PawSox have had a great run as the Red Sox’ Triple-A team since the 1970s, and they’ve been International League champions in two of the last three seasons. The move will, presumably, mean that the PawSox will continue as a Red Sox affiliate for the foreseeable future. It’s not clear, Cafardo notes, whether the team’s current front office will continue under new ownership or whether the Red Sox will install new personnel there.

Tigers Exercise Option On Alex Avila

The Tigers have exercised their club option on catcher Alex Avila for the 2015 season, the team announced.  Avila will earn $5.4MM in 2015 rather than being bought out for $200K, though he still would’ve been arbitration-eligible and under team control had Detroit chosen to buy him out.  Avila is represented by Excel Sports Management.

Avila broke out with an .895 OPS season in 2011 but hasn’t been nearly as productive at the plate since, posting only a .705 OPS in 1270 plate appearances in 2012-14 and hitting .218/.327/.359 over 457 PA in 2014.  Injuries have played a role in Avila’s struggles, as he has battled knee and hamstring issues and (most troubling) multiple concussions.  After suffering his latest concussion during the ALDS, Avila said he’d passed his medical tests and was ready to keep playing.

While Detroit now has Avila officially in place for next season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently reported that the Tigers were listening to trade offers for the catcher.  This could be due diligence on the Tigers’ part or a hint that they’re looking for an upgrade due to Avila’s injury history and lack of hitting.  James McCann, a second-rounder from the 2011 draft, hit .295/.343/.427 in 460 PA at Triple-A Toledo last season and made his MLB debut for Detroit, though if the Tigers did make a move at catcher, you’d expect they would look to replace Avila with a veteran rather than entrust the position to a rookie.  A platoon could also be an option, as Avila and McCann hit from opposite sides of the plate.