Detroit Tigers: Avila an Overlooked Reunion Candidate in Free Agency

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 18: Alex Avila #16 of the Minnesota Twins bats against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 18, 2020 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 18: Alex Avila #16 of the Minnesota Twins bats against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 18, 2020 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Former Detroit Tigers catcher and son of GM Al, Alex Avila appears to be a candidate for another reunion with the club from which he was drafted

The Detroit Tigers are in dire need of a catcher this offseason. Starting backstop Austin Romine is a free agent and neither of Eric Haase or Grayson Greiner appeared to have cemented even a back-up status from what we saw in 2020. Then there is Jake Rogers–who has the tools defensively to be a plus defender behind the dish but was passed up on a couple of separate occasions for a call-up.

Then-manager Ron Gardenhire was questioned about Rogers after some of the moves during the 2020 season, to which he replied from an article from the Freep:

"“He’s fine. I’m sure he’s frustrated. We know where Jake’s gonna be next year. He’s gonna be with us, for sure.”"

Ironically, ‘us’ didn’t include Gardenhire, who stepped away before the season was over.

Positioning someone like Greiner or Haase next to Rogers next year would be malpractice; Rogers needs someone who would complement his shortcomings offensively and perhaps provide another perspective for preparation and game-calling. Ironically, that player may be right under our noses.

Maybe fans have thought of Avila as a back-up/platoon catcher option and it’s me who has been looking over Avila this whole time, but I have yet to see a ton of pulling for him (although nothing could top the Dahl to Detroit domination). But Avila could be an under-the-radar pickup not only for what he would bring to the Detroit Tigers but also the exposure he would eliminate.

Avila provides a viable platoon option next to Rogers. Over his career, he’s slashed .240/.357/.416 against righties compared to a .213/.309/.309 line against same-sided pitchers. Comparatively, although a small sample size, Rogers slashed a rock-solid .286/.375/.619 against lefties across 14 games in 2019 during his brief stint and hit just .088/.186/.176 against righties in 35 games.

The pause for someone like Avila to Detroit would be the fact he’s entering his age-34 season and already has 12 years of catching under his belt. However, being a platoon option would allow him to stay fresher on his feet while putting him in the best position to succeed. A win-win scenario for a guy who has comfort with the organization.

Those who look at the stats may also not like the .184 batting average he posted in 2020, but it is important to recognize this was only across 23 games and, despite the average, Avila was still able to post a strong .355 on-base percentage–a patience factor that would bring relief to a team full of free-swingers and potentially knock a pitcher out of a game an out or two earlier than usual.

No, it isn’t JT Realmuto or James McCann. But given the current field and also taking fit into account, perhaps Avila is more likely than I had initially considered. Avila to Ann Arbor. Anyone?

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