By: Holly Horning
Breaking news! Al Avila has been quiet.
Rut roh, maybe that’s not a good thing after all.
You see, 2 seasons ago, Al told us that the rebuild would take 2-3 years. Then early last year, he said it would be closer to 5. And since then?
(Insert the sound of crickets here.)
For Avila to be quiet about the rebuild timeline probably means that the plans are no longer on schedule or that he, and the Front Office, have no idea how long this will now actually take.
And you really only have to look at the roster to see that the team has made little progress in putting their pieces in place.
For purposes of discussion, let’s not include the pitching staff in our analysis. Now, let’s look at the players manning the infield and outfield in 2018.
Calling it an official “rebuild”, the Tigers put one, count ‘em, one viable new player on the roster. Jeimer Candelario. (We’re not going to count Niko Goodrum who is a super-utility guy.)
They’ve got to move faster than that. Otherwise, we’re talking about a process so slow that it rivals the speed of maple sap during a Vermont winter.
As we move into this off-season, many of those who played regularly are either gone or in the process of being cut loose. Iggy is looking for a new home and the Tigers have been trying to find one for Nick Castellanos. Some positions, like 2B, never even found a reasonable solution after the trade of Ian Kinsler.
Al Avila has indicated that we may not see James McCann come February as well. If this is the case, the Tigers will have vacancies at C, 2B and SS for the 2019 season. Three out of 5 infield positions.
The outfield, if Castellanos is not traded, will be intact unlike the infield. But this is not a good thing. Call it the yin-yang sandwich outfield. Two corner outfielders who can hit but can’t play solid defense and a center fielder with exceptional fielding ability but often has difficulty hitting his way out of a paper bag.
Unless Christin Stewart miraculously finds a cure for his glove, these 3 will not be part of a contending team in the future.
And if you look at the big picture, the Tigers only have 2 out of 8 slots filled that appear viable for the short-term future. Candelario and Miggy – the latter because of salary and also given his statement that he doesn’t want to be a full-time DH. When you are the most famous, most expensive and longest- serving veteran on your team, you tend to get what you want.
So if we’re looking at the positions that need to be developed, the Tigers must find 6 everyday starting players.
And that’s a very tall order.
It’s also going to take more than a couple of years.
This is where the prospects come in. And despite the write-ups, rankings and hopeful wishes, they are still – prospects. Unproven in the majors. Guys who need to spend time at the MLB level and get experience and seasoning. Guys who need to avoid injury. Guys who need to pull deep from within and show their fortitude. Or lack thereof.
None of them are a sure bet until they spend some time playing. And let’s face facts – the chances of all the hopeful top prospects succeeding is very slim. Some will fall by the wayside.
A former GM said today that the one common denominator of any great team is to have a solid core of young players who have come up through the minors together. He went on to talk about those players from the Red Sox and the Astros, among others.
We saw it in Detroit back in the late 70’s – early 80’s with the rise of players like Trammell, Parrish, Morris and others.
What are the chances that the Tigers have that nucleus already in the pipeline?
One can only pray. We can’t foretell the future. Even 21 teams didn’t see the potential in Mike Trout when he was finally drafted.
What we do know is that the Tigers are unlikely to field what is essentially an entirely new team and do it in a couple of years. It’s going to take much longer than that.
We also know that Al Avila was given a 5-year contract as GM because, as the Ilitches explained, it will take that amount of time to rebuild the team. That contract expires after the 2020 season. And if not enough progress is seen, the rebuild may be handed over to someone else.
And if there is little show for this tenure, then we should hope that is the case.
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