Detroit Tigers, Al Avila, and “Operation Bullpen”


Al Avila has been a man on a mission this offseason to fill the glaring holes of the Detroit Tigers. His latest mission has been Operation Bullpen: building the ever-elusive Tigers’ bullpen.

Sep 12, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Justin Wilson (41) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jaysat Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In the 38 days since the World Series concluded, the Tigers added Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, and Justin Wilson for Javier Betancourt, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, and $11 million. The combined ERA of the three players the Tigers acquired was 2.52 in 2015 with a WAR of 3.1.

The Tigers bullpen now stands as Francisco Rodriguez in the 9th, Mark Lowe in the 8th, Wilson and Blaine Hardy as the lefties, with Alex Wilson, Drew VerHagen, and Bruce Rondon as favorites to win three of the final four bullpen spots for the start of 2016.

Shane Greene, Michael Fulmer, Kyle Lobstein, Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, and Matt Boyd could also factor into bullpen decisions for the Tigers. Fulmer and Boyd will almost assuredly start the season in AAA as starters. Greene, Lobstein, Farmer, and Ryan could make runs either at the next man up when injuries occur and spot starts are needed, but could also work into the “hope they turn out to be Drew Smyly” role in the bullpen.

Al Avila has now built the bullpen on paper the Tigers did not have recently under Dave Dombrowski. Now, Brad Ausmus will have to press the right buttons and correctly manage a competent bullpen.

Next: Welcome to Detroit, Justin Wilson

Many used the lack of talent in the Tigers’ bullpen as the excuse for Ausmus’s incompetence, but there is no excuse in 2016. The Tigers’ lack of bullpen talent along with the injuries may have saved Ausmus’s job in 2015, but his management may doom the Tigers going forward.