The Tigers have signed catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal, per a club announcement. He’ll receive a $2MM guarantee, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. To create 40-man space, the club designated righty Angel Nesbitt for assignment.
Avila, who is the son of Tigers GM Al Avila, returns to Detroit after a one-year stint with the White Sox. The lefty swinging 29-year-old seems likely to function in a platoon role with James McCann, who has played in over 100 games in each of the last two seasons and may well do so again in 2017.
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Though it had seemed Avila might be too expensive for the Tigers, the sides have found a way to make it work. He hit a solid .213/.359/.373 with seven home runs over 209 plate appearances last year, though the University of Alabama product continued to be limited almost exclusively to facing right-handed pitching.
Avila carries huge platoon splits over his career, though that still makes him a plenty useful part-time piece, especially since he hits from the left side. All told, over his eight seasons of MLB action — seven of which have come with Detroit — he owns a .247/.357/.418 batting line against opposing righties.
There are some questions, though. Avila missed time last year with a hamstring issue and, more worryingly, has dealt with concussion problems. Avila’s defensive work, too, isn’t necessarily a strong suit, though that’s always difficult to assess for a backstop. He draws rather poor ratings as a pitch-framer, per both StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus (subscription link), and the latter publication also has traditionally graded Avila as a somewhat below-average performer in terms of throwing and blocking.
As for Nesbitt, 26, he’ll lose his roster spot after throwing 47 2/3 innings of 4.91 ERA ball at Triple-A in 2016, where he averaged 7.9 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. He received 24 major-league appearances in the prior campaign, but managed only a 5.40 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Nesbitt did show a 93.9 mph average heater and manage a solid 48.5% groundball rate, but the results just haven’t been there.