Detroit Tigers Sign Alex Avila

Aug 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers fans will see a familiar face behind the plate in 2017 as Alex Avila has returned to the club. The team announced the move on Twitter Friday afternoon.

Detroit Tigers brass drafted Alex Avila in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. Avila would go on to play seven seasons with the Tigers before joining the Chicago White Sox as a free agent last offseason.

Now, the veteran backstop has returned to the Motor City.

The Tigers official Twitter account released a tweet about the signing on Friday, tweeting, “The #Tigers announced today that the club has agreed to terms with catcher Alex Avila on a one-year contract.”

Avila is back in Detroit following a one-year stint with the division-rival White Sox. During said stint, the 29-year-old batted .213 with 19 runs scored, 11 RBI, seven home runs and six doubles in 169 at-bats.

Two of the catcher’s seven home runs came off longtime teammate Justin Verlander. His WAR last year ended up at 1.1 despite appearing in only 57 games.

Detroit Tigers
Aug 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) makes a throw to first in the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the low batting average, Avila still managed to turn in a solid .359 on-base percentage.

If he can hit for a higher batting average,the veteran will become an extremely valuable bench cog for the Tigers. The catcher also threw out 22% of would-be base stealers.

Additionally, Avila logged a .160 ISO and a 104 wRC+ despite the relatively low number of games played.

The son of Tigers general manager Al Avila, the backstop will likely join Andrew Romine as key players on Brad Ausmus’ bench.

Avila and Romine are likely to be joined by some combination of outfielders Steven Moya, Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones. Dixon Machado is another name who could figure into the bench discussion.

Much-Needed Catching Depth

James McCann is penciled in as the starter behind the dish. However, the Detroit Tigers didn’t have too many options behind the elite defensive catcher.

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Avila gives Detroit a much-needed upgrade on the bench. The team’s other options consist of the unproven trio of John Hicks, Grayson Greiner and Miguel Gonzalez.

Clearing 40-Man Roster Space

In a separate tweet, Detroit’s Twitter account would also announce a move to free up a 40-man roster slot for Avila. The Tigers official Twitter accounted tweeted on Friday afternoon, “To create room on the 40-man roster for Avila, the Tigers have designated for assignment the contract of RHP Angel Nesbitt.”

The 26-year-old Nesbitt made his Major League debut in 2015, appearing in 24 games for Detroit.

Over that span, the reliever totaled 21.1 innings while posting 14 walks, eight strikeouts, a 5.40 ERA and a 4.70 FIP.

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Nesbitt spent the 2016 campaign in the minors, where he saw action for Lakeland, Erie and Toledo. All told, he logged a 4.91 ERA in 47.2 innings pitched. The pitcher struck out 7.9 batters per nine innings while posting a 1.720 WHIP.