Though he’s coming off a huge season split between the Tigers and Cubs, catcher Alex Avila said on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today that he’s open to a backup role on a contending team (Twitter link). Avila explains that his “number one” priority is signing with a team that has an opportunity to reach the postseason, rather than guaranteeing himself a starting job on a team that is less of a clear-cut contender. Set to turn 31 in January, Avila batted .264/.387/.447 with 14 homers in 376 plate appearances this past season. He also ranked second in the Majors in hard-contact rate (min. 300 PAs) and tied for 18th in average exit velocity (min. 100 batted balls). The Nationals, D-backs and Rockies are among the expected contenders that could add a new starting catcher, while several playoff clubs could look to augment their backup catching option.
A few more notes on some free agents…
- Brandon Kintzler also made an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today and revealed that he’s been in touch with a number of clubs but has yet to receive a firm offer (Twitter link). The Nationals and Twins have both reportedly expressed interest in retaining Kintzler, and the pitcher himself revealed that his wife would love for him to sign in Arizona, though Kintzler didn’t specifically state that the D-backs had reached out to him. Moreover, while the former Twins closer would surely prefer a multi-year pact, he also expressed that he’d be comfortable betting on himself on a one-year deal if need be. “I feel like I’m not a guy who can be picky,” said Kintzler, a former 40th-round pick who played independent ball from 2006-09. “A few years ago, I was a minor league free agent just trying to get a job.”
- In need of a fifth starter, the Tigers have had preliminary talks with right-hander Chris Tillman, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The longtime Orioles righty is coming off the worst season of his career and represents a nice rebound option that the rebuilding Tigers could look to as a potential summer trade chip if he can regain his form. Tillman, 30 next April, had the start of his season delayed by shoulder problems and pitched to a ghastly 7.84 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and 2.32 HR/9 in 93 innings when healthy. While those numbers are tough to look at, the former second-rounder was Baltimore’s most consistent starter from 2012-16, when he pitched 844 2/3 innings of 3.81 ERA ball. From 2013-16, Tillman averaged 32 starts and 190 innings per season with a 3.91 ERA. MLBTR ranked him 47th on our top 50 free agent list, pegging him for a one-year, $10MM contract in Detroit.
- Carlos Ruiz will turn 39 years old in January, but he’s still hoping to return for another season in 2018, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. “Chooch” spent the 2017 season in Seattle, where he batted .216/.313/.352 with three homer sin 145 plate appearances. He threw out a respectable 7 of 30 potential base thieves (23 percent) in his limited time behind the dish but also drew quite poor framing marks from Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner. That said, Ruiz maintained a solid 9.7 percent walk rate and has been lauded for his leadership and presence in the clubhouse over the years. For a club eyeing a more affordable backup option than Avila, he’d certainly make some sense.