Detroit Tigers: Replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia with Alex Avila has been Al Avila’s best move so far

Al Avila, Detroit Tigers (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Al Avila, Detroit Tigers (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Detroit Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia with Alex Avila last offseason. It’s been his best move to date.

Detroit Tigers fans saw executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila bring back a familiar face last offseason.

The franchise signed longtime Tigers catcher, as well as Al Avila’s son, Alex Avila to a one-year contract.

After a 57-game stint in a White Sox’ uniform in 2016, last season marked the backstop’s return to the organization that drafted him.

The younger Avila has played 760 games as a member of the Detroit Tigers in the regular season.

Of the 760 games, 77 came during the 2017 campaign.

To date, signing the backstop may just be Al Avila’s best move to date.

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jarrod Saltalamacchia did some good things in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

Signed to a one-year deal to back up James McCann, Saltalamacchia provided instant power.

He mashed six home runs, three doubles and a triple in his first 63 plate appearances.

The former Ranger was also a .286 hitter with 16 RBI, seven walks and four home runs in 35 high leverage plate appearances.

However, there were some statistical outputs that left much to be desired.

Despite a hot start at the plate, Salty ended the year with a .171 batting average, a .284 on-base percentage, a .277 wOBA and a 68 wRC+.

Some of this was obviously impacted by a .222 BABIP.

However, for all the free passes the veteran drew (his walk rate finished at a team-high 14%), his eye sore of a strikeout rate ended up at 35.6% over the course of 292 plate appearances.

In fact, among all players with at least 100 plate appearances in 2016, only eight—including former teammates Steven Moya and Anthony Gose— turned in a higher punch-out rate.

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Alex Avila

The Tigers let Salty walk in free agency.

Detroit eventually replaced him with the player who had left just the offseason before in Alex Avila.

The former Tiger also signed a one-year deal.

Purely from a production standpoint, Avila was excellent in his return to the Detroit Tigers.

The backstop settled into somewhat of a time share with James McCann, and was excellent against right-handed pitching.

His 31.1% strikeout rate against righties didn’t draw the eye in a positive way. However, the rest of Avila’s stats against right-handed opposition did.

In 241 plate appearances, the 30-year-old logged a 140 wRC+, a .384 wOBA, a .218 ISO, a .398 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and an .898 OPS.

He also added with 27 runs scored, 26 RBI, 11 home runs and 11 doubles.

Overall, Alex Avila’s fWAR finished at 1.9 in 77 games.

The trade return

All of that production alone would have received a high grade, but then executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila flipped Alex along with closer Justin Wilson to the Chicago Cubs for third baseman Jeimer Candelario and infield prospect Isaac Paredes at the trade deadline.

As it stands, Alex Avila is once again a free agent. Meanwhile, Wilson has just one year of controllability left before becoming a free agent himself.

Meanwhile, the Tigers now have a long-term solution at third base in Jeimer Candelario and a potential impact middle infielder for the future in Paredes.

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The shortstop just mashed 11 home runs and 28 doubles as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League. Paredes also drove in 70 runs and posted a .725 OPS against competition that was on average 3.2 years older than him.