Detroit Tigers: Don’t Blame Al Avila for Franklin Pérez

LAKELAND, FL - Jake Rogers and Franklin Perez shake hands. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - Jake Rogers and Franklin Perez shake hands. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Earlier today the Detroit Tigers made a sad, but inevitable, announcement:

To be clear, we’re talking about that final bullet point. Franklin Pérez, the centerpiece of the 2017 Justin Verlander trade, has been released after four injury plagued seasons with the Tigers. He threw just 27 innings for the organization.

There’s is nothing good about this news, but it might not be quite as bad as it seems. The Detroit Tigers placing Franklin Pérez on unconditional release waivers is a procedural move to get him off the 40-man roster. There’s always the danger of another team claiming Pérez, but given his recent track record, and the fact he’s about to undergo shoulder surgery, that seems unlikely.

Tigers fans may remember a similar situation with reliever Gerson Moreno, who was removed from Detroit’s 40-man roster in 2018 when it was learned he needed Tommy John surgery. He quickly re-signed a minor-league deal with the club, and is still in the organization. It’s possible Franklin Pérez will follow the same path.

Why We Can’t Blame Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to complain about Al Avila’s tenure as Detroit Tigers General Manager, but Franklin Pérez’s injury issues isn’t one of them. This one we have to blame on that immutable law of baseball: pitchers break.

Every pitcher breaks eventually. Most don’t break as immediately and thoroughly as Franklin Pérez, but this is a looming threat whenever teams draft or trade for pitching. It’s one of the great threats to any attempted rebuild.

It is reasonable to criticize Al Avila for going pitching-heavy in his early drafts. And criticizing him for trading Justin Verlander at all is fair. But when you’re trading away one of the best pitchers in Detroit Tigers history, it makes sense to get at least one big pitching prospect in return.

And it’s important to remember the circumstances of the Verlander trade. It came after the old non-waiver trade deadline, meaning any player involved in the deal had to clear waivers before being dealt. That eliminated any prospects on 40-man rosters — they would simply be snapped up by another team if they were waived — so the Tigers had to pick from a smaller pool of players.

The Houston Astros had a strong collection of young talent in 2017, but their pitching prospects Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove, and David Paulino were already on the 40-man roster, and their first-round pick J.B. Bukauskas wasn’t eligible to be traded yet.

That left two options: Forrest Whitley and Franklin Pérez. By that time Whitley was considered a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, while Pérez was generally considered a top-50 prospect. Both had reached Double-A at 19, and both offered precocious command of above-average stuff. Detroit almost certainly asked for Whitley, but it’s not as if Pérez was a booby prize.

It is now four years later, and neither pitcher has reached the big leagues. Whitley pitched more than Pérez, but he was also suspended for PEDs, injured, and not very effective when he threw. He had Tommy John surgery in March, and his future is cloudy. Pitchers break.

Baseball is a results-based business, and Al Avila’s results thus far have been historically bad. Every loss, every mistake, and every missed opportunity goes on the permanent record.

Al Avila’s record looks ugly, and we can reasonably blame him for poor drafting, poor scouting, and a poor process in general. But Franklin Pérez not working out is just bad luck.

Next. Morosi: Avila's Job Not In Danger. dark