Detroit Tigers: Based on 2016 Stats, Alex Avila is Significant Upgrade over Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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Feb 24, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; umpire Joe West (22) and Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (31) share a laugh at home plate during the third inning of a spring training baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; umpire Joe West (22) and Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (31) share a laugh at home plate during the third inning of a spring training baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila returns to the organization after a season with the division-rival Chicago White Sox. He’ll provide a significant boost to Detroit’s bench.

Detroit Tigers fans saw the club complete a season without Alex Avila in uniform for the first time since 2008.

The veteran backstop was with the White Sox, where he joined fellow ex-Tigers Austin Jackson, Avisail Garcia and Jacob Turner.

Chicago ended up with a 78-84 record, and Avila once again returned to the free agent market.

Now, with Spring Training under way ahead of the 2017 campaign, the catcher is back with the Tigers.

He replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who joined the Blue Jays earlier in the offseason via free agency.

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Serving as James McCann’s backup in last season, Saltalamacchia provided some pop with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 92 games.

However, the former top prospect hit just .171 and struck out 104 times in 292 plate appearances.

What’s more, Salty wasn’t able to offset the strikeouts with a significant number of walks, drawing just 41 free passes in a Detroit uniform.

His on-base percentage with the Tigers finished at just .284.

The veteran’s power was a plus at times, as he hit timely home runs in games against the Pirates, Astros, Royals and White Sox (twice).

Saltalamacchia didn’t manage to make a significant impact outside of his home runs. He only collected 30 hits that didn’t leave the park..

All told, the ex-Diamondback logged a 0.1 WAR, a .175 ISO, a .277 wOBA and a 69 wRC+.

More on Alex Avila’s 2016 Season in Chicago

Now the role will fall to Avila, who spent parts of six years as Detroit’s starter.

While Avila’s numbers didn’t jump off the page in his final three years with the Tigers (.216 batting average, .677 OPS) before moving to Chicago, Avila bounced back last season.

In just 57 games with the White Sox, the 30-year-old showed his penchant for drawing walks, with a .359 on-base percentage despite a .213 batting average.

He also posted a 1.1 WAR in limited playing time, while also turning in a .160 ISO, a .329 wOBA and a 104 wRC+.

Avila also chipped in with 19 runs scored, 11 RBI, seven home runs and six doubles in 209 plate appearances. In fact, two of his home runs came off Justin Verlander.

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All in all, Avila should give the Tigers a more complete offensive backup to McCann. It doesn’t hurt that he’s familiar with the majority of Detroit’s pitching staff.

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