By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Who needs the Winter Meetings? In a couple of days after at least one more deal under his belt, Al Avila and his staff can hang at the pool the rest of the week.
The Tigers to-date have secured 6 new players, supplementing the needs of 4 areas; starting pitching, relief pitching as well as the outfield and catching positions.
Let’s answer a couple of questions on what the acquisitions mean for the Tigers.
How would you rate the Tigers’ 6 acquisitions as a whole so far?
Kurt – Whatever the scale, the Tigers haul so far has been impressive. They have been smart, calculated acquisitions that have gotten them the best bang for the buck.
This is going to sound strange, but the Tigers are getting the jump on low-cost value and are only leaving big money stars for the rest of the league. In any other season, that would sound like the Tigers aren’t improving, but it has been the opposite.
This is truly a new era. We can only question the Pelfrey signing as one that could potentially blow up. But timing is everything with these pitchers who have gone through TJS and if the Tigers feel they are getting him at the right time, then based on everything else they have done, who am I to argue?
The Tigers biggest need going into the off-season, starting pitching, was where they were destined to spend the most money and they got that out of the way early, nabbing Zimmermann for what many in the game see as a bargain, given the market. And the latest addition of Mark Lowe is as impressive as it gets. Al is doing his homework, and has really made it truly impossible to predict their targets.
Holly – Dave Dombrowski didn’t leave Avila with much wiggle room in terms of available payroll and moveable pieces, but overall, my expectations have been met or even slightly exceeded.
More than Dave, Avila appears to have a better handle on the overall picture. He quickly checked off the top needs in a #2/#3 starter and closer and then showed us that he “got it” about the bullpen by locking down an 8th inning guy – all at great value as it turned out.
I’ll admit I’m having some doubts about Pelfrey but in my digging, I see that his velocity is going up along with his ground ball ratio, which fits perfectly with Iggy and Ian behind him. He also added a new pitch so I’m hopeful that the scouts see him as an effective innings eater who will help keep the Tigers in the game.
But I also like how Avila is addressing the smaller details – namely with the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Remember last year when both Miggy and VMart were hurting and the Tigers really didn’t have anyone who could play first base? Salty has lots of experience there along with the ability to switch-hit and adds a veteran presence behind the plate.
Two big signings, 1 solid one and 3 necessary-but-not-exciting pieces added – and I don’t think Avila is done. Last year, Dave brought in fewer players from the outside, with all of them either now gone or with a record of ineffectiveness.
What can you deduce about where the Tigers are headed from these signings?
Kurt – The Tigers are headed to a sustainable future that includes depth.
The trades have been for pieces in the low minors and for players who have struggled in Detroit. The free agent signings have been relatively short-term and affordable, bringing good value.
The Tigers cleared the decks in the bullpen. Instead of adding pieces to the garbage, they got rid of the garbage. It was a much-needed clearing of the yard, so new and improved growth could now flourish. It’s Day One of the Winter Meetings and I could not be more pleased.
Al Avila has taken the dynamic of this franchise and put his stamp on it. Our owner can say what he wants about spending money and his intent to continue to spend big. It’s not believable. Al is watching his pennies after the Zimmermann signing, but is still managing to improve the team systematically from the change jar.
Holly – It’s clear Dave isn’t running this team anymore. First of all, not a single minor leaguer of significance was sacrificed and the farm is intact, growing and being protected. This is the first sign in 14 years that the future of the team is being protected.
Combine that with new contracts that are short in length and reasonable in price which means Avila has plans to nurture talent on the farm and bring them up within the next year or two. He is going to maximize the impact of trading for Norris, Fulmer et al.
Al seems determined to finally remake the bullpen with his new closer and reliever, combined with the brooming of what was formerly known as the Gas Can Gang.
Overall, there is a focus on addressing the biggest weaknesses – starting pitching, relieving, and closing. But also adding depth and flexibility that wasn’t there for a number of years. I see moves that will provide solutions when injuries occur – players who can play several positions and a bench that appears to see the beginnings of having some depth to it.
It could just well be that Maybin is only a small piece of an overall strategy because I think Avila is going to be making more moves.