Detroit Tigers: The Third Act of Alex Avila
By Kellen Gove
As we approach the 2020 version of the winter meetings, which are set to occur virtually starting December 7, the Detroit Tigers still haven’t given any indication of their plan at the catcher position. Ex-Tiger Alex Avila could be in the team’s plans to provide veteran leadership and a left-handed bat behind the plate.
Despite the obvious family connection to Detroit Tigers General Manager Al Avila, Alex Avila was a fan-favorite during his two tenures with the Detroit Tigers. Led by his solid defense behind the plate, his strong plate discipline, and occasional power stroke, he contributed 12.7 bWAR across parts of eight seasons and four postseason runs with the team. It’s easy to forget just how good Avila was in 2011 when he produced 5.1 bWAR and finished twelfth in American League MVP voting.
Since the Tigers shipped him off to Chicago as part of the trade that netted them Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Parades, Avila has spent time with the Diamondbacks and Twins. His production at the plate has been sporadic at best, producing a .774 OPS across 200 at-bats in 2019, but faltering last season. His defense has undoubtedly taken a step back, as he has spent significant time in each of the last three seasons on the disabled list with back issues.
Barring any significant trades or free-agent signings, it appears the Tigers will begin the season with Jake Rogers at catcher. As the Tigers look to complement Rogers and his skill set, it would make a lot of sense to bring in a catching partner who provides veteran leadership and the ability to mash right-handed pitching. I previously wrote about Jason Castro as a strong option to fill this role, but he will be heavily pursued by contending teams who need catching depth.
After Castro, the market for left-handed platoon catchers is barren. Pursuing Alex Avila is certainly risky due to his age and injury history, but his fit next to Rogers and the lack of other options on the market make it easy to see how the Tigers could convince themselves that he is the answer.