Looking Back in Tigers’ History and Evaluating All of Al Avila’s Moves as the Tigers’ GM: Part II Continued (2017-2018)

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 11: Ian Kinsler #3 of the Detroit Tigers greets Mikie Mahtook #15 of the Detroit Tigers and JaCoby Jones #40 of the Detroit Tigers as they celebrate a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on April 11, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

January 18th, 2017 – Tigers traded RHP Drew Smith to the Rays for OF Mikie Mahtook

Grade at time of acquisition: A

Although Drew Smith had a 2.96 ERA and 11.47 K/9 at A, his walk rate / 9 IP was in the low 4s. Mahtook struggled mightily in 196 PA in 2016 with the Rays. His batting average was .195 and he struck out nearly 35% of the time. He was worth -1.0 WAR. With that being said, he was year removed from a campaign in which he put up very good numbers (small sample size though)…

2015 season with the Rays

PA: 115

HRs: 9

AVG: .295

WAR: 1.5

Grade in retrospect: A

In his first season with the Tigers, Mikie Mahtook hit .276 with 12 big flies in 379 PAs. Mahtook couldn’t carry over his success from year one over to year two. After hitting very poorly early on in 2018, he got demoted to AAA. Towards the end of the season, he may have recaptured his power stroke from the year prior (his average was still really low)…

8/23 – 9/30

PAs: 104

HRs: 7

AVG: .226

At the 2017 trade deadline, the Rays sent Drew Smith to the Mets for 1B Lucas Duda. Smith was decent for the Mets in relief this past season. He had a 3.54 ERA, but he only struck out 5.79 batters / 9 IP, which is very below average.

July 18th, 2017 – Tigers traded OF JD Martinez to the Diamondbacks for 3B Dawel Lugo, SS Sergio Alcantara, and SS Jose King

Grade at time of acquisition: E

The Tigers were only around 5 games out of a wild card spot when they traded away J-Dingers. In seeing the package they received, I would have rather them held onto JD than receive a pack of peanuts for him. JD was very fun to watch, and he was an integral part of their offense, and without him, the team’s offense was not remotely intimidating. Lugo was the highest ranked prospect the Tigers netted in this deal; he was hitting .282 in AA for the Diamondbacks with limited power (7 HRs), and he could not draw walks (2.3% BB rate). Alcantara was seen as a defensive minded SS with little to offer in terms of offense. King was a high-upside, high-risk throw-in.

Grade in retrospect: F

JD was incredible down the stretch for the D-Backs. He hit 28 big flies in 62 games.

The prospects’ stocks have remarkably dwindled since the trade. Lugo had a .283 OBP in over 500 PAs in AAA and he hit .213 with the Tigers over 101 PAs. You will never guess who he hit his first and only MLB homer off of: Josh Hader.

Sergio Alcantara had just 1 HR over nearly 500 AA PAs. Jose King is still very raw; it’s rather difficult to come to any sort of judgements until he plays against higher-level competition.

July 31st, 2017 – Tigers traded C Alex Avila and LHP Justin Wilson to the Cubs for 3B Jeimer Candelario and SS Isaac Paredes

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Alex Avila was having a great season and was only under contract for the rest of the year, so it made sense to move him at the deadline. While Justin Wilson had another year of control remaining, the Tigers wanted to sell high, which makes sense. Jeimer Candelario was trapped in the Cubs’ system (Bryant at 3B and Rizzo at 1B), but would have a much more feasible path to playing time with Detroit. Isaac Paredes was considered a sleeper prospect. He had a .264 AVG and a .343 OBP in A as an 18-year-old. To net two pieces of that caliber for two months of Avila and a year and two months of Wilson was a big win for the Tigers.

Grade in retrospect: A+

The Cubbies are surely regretting this deal. Avila’s performance level dropped after the trade; he hit for a .239 AVG and slugged 3 HRs in 112 PAs. Wilson followed suit; he walked 19 batters in 17.2 IPs and had a 5.09 ERA. In 2018, he improved slightly, walking 33 batters in 54.2 IPs and had an ERA in the mid-3s. The stock of the assets the Tigers acquired have skyrocketed. Candelario hit .330 from August 2017, to the end of the season. In 2018, Candelario was worth 2.5 WAR and hit 19 dingers. Isaac Paredes hit .321 in just over 150 PAs in AA, and he looks to be the 2B of the future.

August 31st, 2017 – Tigers traded RHP Justin Verlander and $32 million to the Astros for OF Daz Cameron, RHP Franklin Perez, and C Jake Rogers

Grade at time of acquisition: C

The then 34-year-old had 3.82 ERA and an un-Verlander like walk rate (mid-3s) in 28 starts for the Tigers. In the end of August, Verlander pitched phenomenally, and interest in him grew…

8/20 – 8/30

GS: 3

IP: 21

H: 11

BB: 3

SO: 26

ERA: 1.71

Verlander agreed to waive his no-trade clause in the waning minutes of the August waiver trade deadline. The Tigers were to receive good prospects in return: RHP Franklin Perez, CF Daz Cameron, and C Jake Rogers. Perez, the cream of the crop, had an ERA in the low-3s at AA as a 19-year-old. He was ranked in the top 50 of most top 100 prospect lists. Outfielder Daz Cameron had a .278 AVG in A- but once he was promoted to A, his batting average dropped below .200. He stole 12 bases between both levels and had 2 HRs. The third and final prospect of the deal was catcher Jake Rogers. Regarded by some scouts and prospect evaluators as the top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Rogers slugged 18 HRs between A and A+ as well. He had a .265 AVG and 13 SBs at A+. His biggest flaw was his propensity to swing and miss (24.1% at A and 19.6% at A+).

Grade in retrospect: D-

Verlander went on to lead the Astros to a World Series, pitching exceptionally well in every start along the way. In his first full season with the Astros, he put up video game numbers…

IP: 214

K/9: 12.2

BB/9: 1.56

ERA: 2.52

He finished second in the Cy Young voting; Blake Snell won the prize for the 1st time in his career. Two of the prospects the Tigers received in the deal have trended in the opposite direction (down). Franklin Perez missed virtually all of last season with injuries (right lat strain and shoulder tightness). Hopefully, he can rebound big time this season. Rogers hit for a meager .219 AVG at AA and struck out over 27% of the time. His power was still there (17 HRs.) As long as he can get to the power in games at the major league level, he can be a starting catcher because of his gold-glove defense. Daz Cameron is the only one who has boosted his stock since the trade. He had a .285 AVG at AA and hit 8 homers between AA and A+. He also stole 22 bags. I am happy with prospects Avila was able to acquire for Verlander at the time of trade; I just wish he would have held on to him so that he could boost his stock, and maybe the Tigers would not have had to eat so much money ($32 million).

August 31st, 2017 – Tigers traded OF Justin Upton to the Angels for RHP Grayson Long and RHP Elvin Rodriguez

Grade at time of acquisition: B

The Tigers decided to trade Upton because they knew that there would be a good chance that Upton would opt of his contract after the season, so the Tigers didn’t want to lose him for nothing. Upton could have also choose to stay with his current contract, which would mean the Tigers would have to pay him over $80 million for 4 more years. As a rebuilding team, that was something the Tigers would not want to do. In return for Upton, the Tigers received two RHPs: Elvin Rodriguez and Grayson Long. Rodriguez, a very raw prospect at the time, had a 2.50 ERA in more than 50 IPs at rookie ball, along with 8+ SOs / 9 IP. Grayson Long was the more highly regarded prospect at the time of the deal. He had a 2.52 ERA in around 120 AA innings.

Grade in retrospect: C

Upton was decent for the Halos down the stretch, but they failed to make the playoffs; however, he did resign with them after opting out of his deal. Rodriguez has emerged as the better prospect of this deal. He had 3.34 ERA in over 100 A innings. On the other hand, Long had a surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, missing all of 2018.

November 25th, 2017 – Tigers signed 3B Niko Goodrum to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Goodrum had average numbers at AAA; he had a .265 AVG, 13 big flies, and 11 SBs in 127 games played. Ron Gardenhire was familiar with Goodrum in his time with the Twins.

Grade in retrospect: A+

After dominating in spring training, Goodrum was rewarded with a spot on the MLB roster as the utility player (role Andrew Romine used to fill). Goodrum eventually took over the 2B job midway through the season (Dixon Machado was really struggling). He hit for good power (16 HRs) and stole 12 bases in 131 games. Great pickup by Al Avila.

December 5th, 2017 – Tigers signed CF Leonys Martin for 1 year and $1.8 million

Grade at time of acquisition: A

Leonys Martin was a great bounce back candidate coming off a tough season in which he hit below .200. With that being said, he was still a valuable asset because of the defensive value he provided in CF. He saved 8 runs defensively in only 299 innings. Martin was only one year removed from a season in which he was worth 2.3 WAR and hit 15 HRs for the M’s.

Grade in retrospect: A+

Martin was great for the Tigers, defensively and offensively (.251 AVG and 9 dingers). The Tigers were able to move him at the deadline for SS Willi Castro, who played really well down the stretch for the Tigers (.324 AVG and 4 in just over 100 PAs at AA).

December 5th, 2017 – Tigers signed OF Jim Adduci to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training

Grade at time of acquisition: C

Aducci hit nearly .290 in over 400 PAs for the Toledo Mudhens in 2016, and he had a .240 AVG with the Tigers. I would’ve rather see them sign a younger player with more upside; Aducci was 32 at the time.

Grade in retrospect: D

Aducci had an OBP below .300 in 185 PA for the Tigers. He was an atrocious defender at 1B, but he filled in when Cabrera was hurt and Hicks needed a day off or had catching duty.

December 8th, 2017 – Tigers signed RHP Mike Fiers for 1 year and $6 million

Grade at time of acquisition: C

Mike Fiers, who was non-tendered by the Astros, would serve as a back-end inning-eating starter for the Tigers. His ERA was over 5 in around 150 IP in 2017. In his previous three seasons, he exceeded 150 innings. His strikeout was in the low 8s but his walk rate rose to the mid-3s.

Grade in retrospect: A+

Mike Fiers had 3.48 ERA in 119 innings with the Tigers, a huge improvement upon his previous season. He stayed healthy and pitched very well; therefore, the Tigers were able to move him in August for two pitching prospects: Nolan Blackwood (deceptive reliever who generates tons of GBs) and Logan Shore (former 2nd round pick out of the University of Florida).

December 13th, 2017 – Tigers traded 2B Ian Kinsler to the Angels for OF Troy Montgomery and RHP Wilkel Hernandez

Grade at time of acquisition: E

Rebuilding teams need a veteran presence; Kinsler would’ve provided just that. Although 2017 was a big drop-off from the numbers he put up in his previous season (28 HRs and average just below .290), Kinsler was still worth 2.6 WAR (even though he had a .236 AVG). The prospects the Tigers netted were lackluster to say the least. Troy Montgomery had a .282 AVG at A+, along with 6 big flies. Hernandez had an ERA around 2.60 in R. It is important to note that Al Avila made it clear that the market was limited to the Angels. With that in mind, I would have preferred the Tigers to have held onto Ian.

Grade in retrospect: F

Kinsler had another solid season (2.3 WAR) despite suffering several injuries throughout the course of the season, while the two prospects the Tigers acquired from the Angels did not produce enough to change my stance. Montgomery had 1 HR in 246 PAs at AA and Hernandez produced a 4.71 ERA at A (he is still raw though — only 19 years young).

December 14th, 2017 – Tigers claimed OF Victor Reyes off of waivers from the Diamondbacks

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Tigers selected Victor Reyes 1st overall in the Rule 5 draft. His AVG was .292 in over 500 PAs with the Diamondbacks’ AA affiliate. He also stole 18 bases and was regarded as an above average defender.

Grade in retrospect: C

Reyes had 1 HR in 219 PAs with the Tigers. He had a .239 OBP and was worth -1.0 WAR. In his last 40 PAs, he put up a .270 AVG; Reyes looks to contribute to the Tigers next season in some form, presumably as a 4th outfielder.

December 21st, 2017 – Tigers signed 2B Ronny Rodriguez to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training

Grade at time of acquisition: A-

Ronny Rodriguez was 25 years old at the time and was coming off a season in which he slugged 17 HRs at AAA and hit for a .291 AVG. He stole some bags (15) and could play all around the diamond.

Grade in retrospect: C-

His success at AAA did not carry over into the majors. He had a .220 AVG in just over 200 PAs. Rodriguez will likely occupy a full-time bench role next year.

February 23rd, 2018 – Tigers signed LHP Fransisco Liriano for 1 year and $4 million

Grade at time of acquisition: C

Liriano was signed to a low-risk deal (only 1 yr) and could eat some innings for the rebuilding Tigers. There was some upside as Liriano was a 3 win player as recent as 2015 (with the Pirates).

Grade in retrospect: B

Liriano’s ERA dropped more than a full run the from the previous season (5.66 to 4.58). He pitched around 130 innings. Command was still an issue (almost 5 BB/9), but he remained healthy for the most part. His performance declined as the season went on; subsequently, the Tigers were not able to move him at the deadline.

4/2 – 5/20

GS: 9

ERA: 3.42

5/26 – 9/27

GS: 17

ERA: 5.33

February 23rd, 2018 – Tigers signed RHP signed RHP Louis Coleman to a minor league contract

Grade at time of acquisition: A

Coleman, a 31-year-old reliever with a deceptive delivery, was coming off a solid season with the Reds’ and Diamonbacks’ AAA affiliates. His ERA was in the low 2s and his strikeout rate was almost 11 K/9.

Grade in retrospect: A+

In 51.1 IP with the Tigers, Coleman had a 3.51 ERA; he became a reliever that manager Ron Gardenhire could depend on.

July 31st, 2018 – Tigers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Kyle Dowdy to the Indians for SS Willi Castro

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Trading Martin enabled the Tigers to give JaCoby Jones the everyday CF gig. Martin was a free agent at the end of the season, so it made sense to try to get something for him. After hitting .290 at A+ in 2017 with the Indians, Castro had a .245 AVG at AA in 2018. He was a highly regarded defender with good speed (13 SB in AA). Dowdy was a throw-in by the Tigers.

Grade in retrospect: A+

Unfortunately, Leonys Martin played only a few games for the Indians before a serious bacterial infection sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Willi Castro had .324 AVG in 114 PA for the Tigers’ AA affiliate, as well as 4 HRs. Castro is now a top 10 prospect in the Tigers’ system.

August 18th, 2018 – Tigers traded RHP Mike Fiers to the Athletics for RHP Nolan Blackwood and RHP Logan Shore

Grade at time of acquisition: C

Blackwood struck out over 8 batters / 9 IP in AA. His BB/9 was just under 2 (2.72). He had a 4.08 ERA and a 62.5% GB for the Athletics’ AA affiliate. Shore performed well at A+ (1.21 ERA and 10.07 K/9) but poorly at AA (5.50 ERA and 6.42 K/9). Mike Fiers was due for a hefty raise in arbitration, so it made sense to part with him.

Grade in retrospect: unchanged (C)

November 30th, 2018 – Tigers non-tender C James McCann

Grade at time of decision: C

McCann was projected to earn $3.5 million in arbitration, per MLB trade rumors. His play from 2018 would not merit that sort of pay. This past season, he was worth -0.1 WAR. His average was .220 and he hit only 8 HRs in around 450 PAs.

Grade in retrospect: C+

On the open market, McCann signed a one year deal with the White Sox worth $2.5 million, less than what he would’ve earned through arbitration with the Tigers.

November 30th, 2018 – Tigers non-tender RHP Alex Wilson

Grade at time of decision: F

Alex Wilson was a leader in the clubhouse — a mentor and positive influence for many of the team’s young relievers — especially Joe Jimenez. He led by example on the field as well. He had an ERA in the low 3s and a WHIP just above 1 (1.05). He was projected to earn only $2.8 million, according to MLB trade rumors, which is a bargain in my opinion.

December 4th, 2018 – Tigers signed LHP Matt Moore for 1 year and $2.5 million

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Matt Moore was once a top prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays and had a great rookie season in 2012 (2.7 WAR). After undergoing TJ surgery, he had never been the same, spending time with the SF Giants and the Texas Rangers. His fastball has been his Achilles heel…

2018 SwStr% by pitch, AVG against by pitch, HRs against by pitch, and pitch usage

FB: 6.8%, .327, 11, 58.6%

CB: 14.3%, .239, 4, 18.8%

CH: 18.3%, .260, 3, 13.4%

CU: 7.3%, .317, 1, 9.2%

He should throw his cutter (lower AVG and fewer HRs per 50 PAs than his FB) more than his FB; in fact, he probably should ditch his FB entirely. Moore should also throw his CB and CH way more frequently, as they are his two best pitches.

December 10th, 2018 – Tigers signed RHP Tyson Ross for 1 year and $5.75 million

Grade at time of acquisition: B

Ross had a bounce back season last season after missing a lot of time due to a thoracic outlet injury. He was worth 1.0 WAR and had a 4.15 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. His only plus pitch is his slider (14.2% SwStr last season). He generates a lot of ground balls on his cutter (51.6%) and sinker (70.4%). Ross could be an interesting reliever, where he could throw his slider 50% of the time, or an average starting pitcher.

December 13th, 2018 – Tigers claimed RHP Reed Garrett from the Texas Rangers

Grade at time of acquisition: A

The Tigers selected Reed Garrett in the 2018 Rule 5 draft. His upside is that of a set-up man. He had a 2.84 ERA for the Rangers’ AAA affiliate. His walk rate is below 3 and he gets a decent amount of swings and misses. Some of that can be attributed to an uptick in FB velocity.

December 14th, 2018 – Tigers signed SS Jordy Mercer for 1 year and $5.25 million

Grade at time of acquisition: E

Mercer is the definition of boring. His career AVG is .256 and he has very little power (55 HRs in 821 career games). He is a huge downgrade from Iglesias…

Iglesias v. Mercer (2018 stats)

Iglesias‘ WAR: 2.5

Mercer’s WAR: 1.0

Iglesias‘ DRS: 1

Mercer’s DRS: -9

Iglesias‘ SLG: .389

Mercer’s SLG: .381

Iglesias is the better fielder and hitter. Mercer has no upside and is on the wrong side of 30. Also, the Tigers are overpaying him ($5.25 million is larger than it sounds). The Tigers could’ve signed Billy Hamilton for less and had him play SS instead.

2017 (12 moves)

Average grade at time of acquisition: B-

  • Average grade for trades (6): C
  • Average grade for free agent signings (5): B

Average grade in retrospect: C+

  • Average grade for trades: C-
  • Average grade for free agent signings: B

Avila did well in the free agent market and did alright in trades.

2018 (10 moves)

Average grade at time of acquisition: C+

  • Average grade for trades (2): C+
  • Average grade for free agent signings (5): C+

Average grade in retrospect (does not include moves from this offseason): B

  • Average grade for trades: B
  • Average grade for free agent signings: A-

Al Avila made better trades this past season than the year prior.

2015-18 (38 moves)

Average grade at time of acquisition (2015-18): C+

  • Average grade for trades: C
  • Average grade for free agent signings: B-

Average grade in retrospect (2015-18): C+

  • Average grade for trades: C-
  • Average grade for free agent signings: B-

Overall grade (2015-18): C+


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