As the Detroit Tigers sit below .500 at this point in the season, it seems like all eyes on are Brad Ausmus and his managing style. While he is responsible for setting the lineup and making the in-game decisions, he did not make the decisions about who to put on the team.
That was up to Al Avila.
Should we, the fans, be questioning Al Avila and the decisions he made in the off-season? Yes.
After years of Dave Dombrowski decimating the farm system to add the best of the best, it seemed to be a unanimous decision that Al Avila won the 2016 off-season by adding players like Jordan Zimmermann, Cameron Maybin, Justin Upton, Justin Wilson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Mike Aviles. Most questioned the signing of Mike Pelfrey and as of yet, those doubts have lived up to their expectations.
Unfortunately, several of those signings have not gone as expected.
Currently, two of the most disappointing signings include Pelfrey and Upton. While it was no secret that Pelfrey was no David Price or Jake Arrieta, it is still rather difficult to see what any scout happened to have seen in the 32-year-old right-handed pitcher. It also was not a secret that Upton was more likely to strikeout than walk, but no one expected that he would be the strikeout leader in the American League in the first 30 games.
We have yet to see Cameron Maybin, and that is not Al Avila’s fault. Mike Aviles has been a disappointment at the plate, so he has become a guaranteed out when he replaces a daily player. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has come up big in a few games, but lately, he, too, has been a let down in the pair of big bases-loaded-with-two-outs moments.
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Just like the argument that Brad Ausmus should be excused for the loses because he is not out there pitching, hitting, and fielding, Al Avila can also be excused for the same reason. But, he cannot be excused for signing these players.
The old saying “Hindsight is 20-20” does apply here. It is safe to say that Avila did not expect Pelfrey and Upton to have declining performances during their time in the D, but someone should have done more investigations and analysis before giving them their multi-year, multi-million contracts. The immense contracts and their sub-par numbers have now made these two men nearly untradable, thus saddling the Tigers with more big contracts and aging players.
With these signings, Avila has left Ausmus with players who perform and players who underperform. And, it seems like Avila has actually realized this. Calling up Steven Moya could be a move in the right direction. Of course, Moya can’t do anything about Pelfrey (unless he can throw a 95-mph fastball and hit his spots), but he can take one of those coveted outfield spots and he can take a valued spot in the batting order.
Before the fans lay all of the blame on Brad Ausmus, it is important to remember that Al Avila is also a culprit in the crappy contracts and poor performances that are keeping the Tigers down – way too far down.