Starting Over And Keeping Avila Shows Detroit Tigers Aren’t Serious About Winning
As Tuesday's MLB trade deadline approaches, several Detroit Tigers are coming up amid rumors and speculation of potential moves.
This all comes on the heels of a recent report from Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic saying the Tigers have made it known through the major leagues that they're open for business at the deadline and that virtually everyone on Detroit's roster is available.
Rosenthal's story focused on Tarik Skubal, one of maybe two bright spots for the Tigers' failed 2022 season. The 25-year-old left-hander has a 7-8 record with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. But what makes Skubal even more appealing to trade deadline buyers is his contract, which pays him a league-minimum salary this year and keeps him under team control through 2026.
The Tigers also have several relief pitchers on contracts that expire soon who are obvious trade deadline candidates. Michael Fulmer, Andrew Chafin, and Gregory Soto are the most notable. Contenders are always in the market for bullpen help at the MLB trade deadline.
But while the media and Tigers fans have debated the practicality of potentially trading Skubal since Rosenthal's story, the larger story remains overlooked. If Detroit is serious about trading Skubal, it would signal that the organization is starting over. Again. This after owner Chris Ilitch told the media in April that the Tigers' rebuild was 100 percent over.
For now, we'll skip the excoriating criticism Ilitch and the Tigers front office deserves in order to address the potential implications of this trade deadline. Starting over again, after a rebuild that began in earnest in 2017, would be painful. It would mean that the suffering Tigers fans have endured for the last five seasons was all for naught.
It would be an admission that general manager Al Avila and his front office failed the organization and the fanbase in this rebuild. How then could Avila possibly be entrusted with another Tigers reclamation?
If you hired a contractor to build you a house and said contractor failed to build a home that's up to code, let alone up to your expectations, would you hire that same contractor to rebuild the house? Of course you wouldn't. So how could Ilitch give Avila another crack at reshaping the Tigers?
MLB general managers are lucky if they get four years to rebuild a franchise into a contender. If the Tigers are indeed about to blow things up and start over with the same front-office management, it would be as unthinkably incompetent as if the German people had allowed Kaiser Wilhelm II to remain their monarch after dragging Germany into and then catastrophically losing World War I.
And that's exactly what the Tigers appear prepared to do. There's only one way to explain such an obvious blunder.
Ilitch is not concerned with returning the Tigers to contention and winning a World Series for the first time since the Reagan Administration. His priority is that the Tigers are a profitable division of the Ilitch business empire.
As long as Avila is a company man and keeps the Tigers' books in line with Ilitch's plan for maximum profitability with minimum investment — Detroit's payroll is 16th in MLB at $138 million, about half of the Dodgers' major-league leading $261 million — he'll remain in the helm. Even as he continues adding to a legacy that's rivaling that of Matt Millen as the worst GM in Detroit sports history.