By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
The Tigers have been busy. No really, have you noticed? You can’t help but wonder what to think of it. It begs a question, doesn’t it?
Our writers’ answers to the following question have not been shared with each other until today, so readers will have the best shot at getting different perspectives on the same topic.
The Tigers have been signing a number of older players – released by other teams, having played in Japan or not in MLB for the past 1-2 years – to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. How would you interpret these moves?
It’s a bit troubling, don’t you think? Avila’s ‘changes…they are a-comin’ speech has been reduced to a yawn fest. Names like Alex Presley and Omar Infante are coming to a minor league town near you. Isn’t this whole exercise of adding depth to the minor leagues a bit of an imposter?
This resembles a game of Tap Baseball where you spin the wheel and land on one-star players who are automatically added to your roster. This isn’t depth, these are just empty transactions. I treat this as the new order; with an ‘acting’ owner, Chris Ilitch, at work keeping the costs down, way down, until the team is sold.
Al Avila only got one year to play in Mike Ilitch’s pile of money. Dave Dombrowski got 14 years to roll around in it and scream like a little kid, fantasizing about all the ice cream, lollipops, pitchers with big arms and hitters with big bats, that he could buy and trade. Avila got very little of that joy, something that normally comes with being the general manager of a Mike Ilitch-owned baseball team.
But, he only got one year. He got Zimmermann and Upton and now he’s done. The leash has already yanked him back to the yard and he is now reduced to signing retreads to fill the minor league system. So, sell the team, Chris. This isn’t fun for anyone, including your GM.
The Tigers have signed a whopping 24 new players so far to minor league contracts with the best known being Omar Infante. While it is typical for teams to bring in these players for depth, the Tigers have signed the most by far out of all the teams and raising a few eyebrows along the way.
It’s interesting that only the first few signed got mentioned in the papers because the Tigers did not send out press releases on most of these guys. Could it possibly be due to how the public would interpret these moves combined with the failure to sign anyone for their MLB roster? That is, if you don’t count Alex Avila.
Pitchers were the most popular – 15 of them – followed by 4 infielders, 3 outfielders and 2 catchers.
The larger-than-normal number tells me three things:
1. The farm system is essentially barren after being pillaged by Dave Dombrowski for years who used it as his own personal ATM (Athletes To Move) as a means to facilitate the constant trades. Those ready to take over in AAA are few and far between. The new signings are a stop-gap measure while the minors attempt to re-load as well as serving as the required depth for when one of the regulars has to visit the DL.
2. Having depth is one thing, but having so much depth makes a statement about the dubious quality of the players – both new and current. Avila probably expects that they will cycle through player options quickly when call-ups are needed.
3. Al Avila is not being given any money in which to get new players not named Avila so he is going for quantity over quality. Unless the Tigers are able to trade away a larger contract, he won’t get any money with which to use – reminiscent of Chris Ilitch’s philosophy back in 2013 when he forced Dombrowski to trade Doug Fister in order to sign Joe Nathan.
It would appear that our GM is trying to gather as many low-cost options as possible because his hands are tied financially. And I’m sure he’s praying that no one on the 25-man roster has to go on the DL this year.