Detroit Tigers Sign Mike Aviles, Designate Kyle Lobstein
By Ben Rosener
It seems as if the Detroit Tigers have found the utility player the team has been searching for. General manager Al Avila recently was quoted in an MLB.com article as saying that the team wanted a player who could fill in at positions in the infield and outfield. “I think the perfect combination would be a guy that maybe can play a little infield, a little outfield, give us that combination, and that can provide some offense.”
As it turns out, that guy is Mike Aviles.
Aviles can man a multitude of positions. The 34-year-old can also provide more pop than recent Detroit utility players like Don Kelly or Andrew Romine. A career .265 hitter, the former Kansas City and Cleveland player has averaged 16 doubles, seven home runs, 10 stolen bases and 36 RBI per season. Aviles’ best statistical season came during his rookie year when he hit .325 with 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 51 RBI. He was a 4.7 WAR player that season.
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While he’s never been a big on-base percentage guy (.297 OBP), Aviles doesn’t strike out that often either. Over the last two seasons, the former Boston player saw action in 211 games. He only struck out 87 times over that span.
The utility player managed a .231 batting average with 10 doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in limited playing time for the Tribe. In 98 games for Cleveland in 2015, Aviles played every position except first base, pitcher and catcher.
This kind of defensive ability will provide manager Brad Ausmus with all sorts of options when it comes to in-game scenarios like pinch-hitting, pinch-running and defensive replacements. Aviles could conceivably see time at every infield and outfield position in 2016. It is also possible that the utility player may get some extra at-bats in left field. Unless the Tigers sign a big-name free agent, left field will be manned by some combination of Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins, Cameron Maybin and maybe even Steven Moya. Given that fact that Aviles can provide some pop and speed to a lineup, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him log some extra playing time in left given the other options.
To open a 40-man roster spot for Aviles, the Tigers designated pitcher Kyle Lobstein for assignment.
With the arrivals of Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey, the rotation is set for next season. The newly-acquired duo will join incumbents Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris. This left little room for Lobstein.
May 13, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein (53) pitches during the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
The 26-year-old Lobstein was not only buried behind the starting five on the organizational depth chart. He was also more expendable than youngster Matt Boyd and 27-year-old Shane Greene. The Tigers paid a high price to acquire Greene, and they seemed unlikely to move on after one poor season.
During his time with Detroit, Lobstein pitched to a 5.33 in 103 innings. Over the course of those 103 innings, the 26-year-old made 17 starts.
The 2014 season was much kinder to Lobstein than 2015 was. In 2014, the starting pitcher made six starts, posting a 4.35 ERA and a 3.82 FIP. At that point, he looked like quality starting option for the future. However, injuries and ineffectiveness set in during the 2015 campaign. Last season saw the starter manage a 5.94 ERA and a 4.64 FIP in 63.2 innings pitched (11 starts).
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In a perfect world, Lobstein will pass through waivers and join the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A team. If that scenario plays out, the 26-year-old would serve as an ideal depth piece for the season ahead.