With yesterday’s reported signing of Justin Upton, general manager Al Avila and the Detroit Tigers capped a hugely successful that has seen the team improve across the board. Avila has fixed the team’s chronic bullpen issue, beefed up the rotation and improved the bench and center field situations.
And oh yeah, he signed Justin Upton.
What’s remarkable about the change is that the Detroit general manager has vastly improved the team without trading away any top prospects. Unlike his predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, Avila has held on to his promising young players.
Of course, some of this has to do with players like Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mark Lowe and Mike Pelfrey being signed via free agency. However, a number of players came in via trade.
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Perhaps the most significant prospects dealt were Javier Betancourt and Luis Cessa. However, both were surplus due to organizational depth. A middle infielder by trade, Betancourt was blocked by fellow minor leaguers Dixon Machado and JaCoby Jones on the organizational depth chart. That’s also without mentioning the presences of Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler.
Cessa, who came over in the Yoenis Cespedes deal at the trade deadline, was behind the likes of Michael Fulmer, Beau Burrows and Spencer Turnbull in terms of fellow starters at the minor league level. In addition to that trio, the Tigers also have a full rotation featuring Justin Verlander, Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Mike Pelfrey. In addition to those five, Matt Boyd and Shane Greene could also start contests for Detroit during the 2016 season.
Lastly, Maybin was acquired for struggling reliever Ian Krol and prospect Gabe Speier. Krol posted a 5.79 ERA (5.17 FIP) in 28 innings for the Tigers in 2015. His ERA in 60.2 career innings with Detroit was 5.34. The other player in the trade, Speier, was never discussed as being one of the team’s elite prospects. He originally arrived from Boston as part of the Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson swap.
Yes, the payroll situation is somewhat concerning, but owner Mike Ilitch recently said “I don’t care about the money.”
The main thing is that the team has improved, while keeping the future bright. Dombrowski would often deal the team’s best prospects for some kind of upgrades at the big league level—Devon Travis for Anthony Gose anyone? Avila has still brought in upgrades at the big league level, only he’s taken from the middle tier of prospects as opposed to the best.
Avila probably could have broken down and dealt Fulmer, Norris or one of the team’s other top young players for an expensive upgrade and short-term fix like Carlos Gonzalez or Craig Kimbrel. While both players would have been excellent fits on the Detroit Tigers’ roster, they would torpedo the team’s long-term outlook.