Detroit Tigers Trade Deadline 2021: Take a Bow Al Avila

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Detroit Tigers Vice President and Assistant General Manager Al Avila watches the action during Spring Training Workout on February 18, 2011 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Detroit Tigers Vice President and Assistant General Manager Al Avila watches the action during Spring Training Workout on February 18, 2011 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Detroit as the 4PM MLB trade deadline has passed and both Detroit Tigers players and fans can let out a sigh of relief.

Now that the dust has settled, Al Avila should be sitting on his porch enjoying his favorite rum drink with a little pink umbrella and be quite proud of himself. This trade deadline was a success.

If you follow me on Twitter or have read some of my previous work here on Motor City Bengals, you know I do not pull punches and am not a founding member of the Al Avila fan club. However, I do pride myself on being fair and objective, giving credit where it is due and presenting the stories honestly as they unfold.

This does not excuse his past failures, nor is it an endorsement for his continued tenure, as I am not sold he can take the team past wild card/fringe contention, but Big Al sent a message loud and clear today to the baseball landscape. Play time is over. No more talent dumps for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King.

We are trying to win games and are changing the culture and perception of the last five seasons. Detroit Tigers Baseball is back on the rise and no longer a doormat or feeder team for the playoff hopefuls.

First, let’s talk about the small move that Al Avila did make today, shipping out Daniel Norris to the Milwaukee Brewers for an A-ball starter named Reese Olson. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs had some high praise for this young man who turns 22 on July 31st:

"Like so many others, Olson had a pretty substantial velocity spike during the gap year and has seen his fastball velocity band go from the 91-95 range to 93-97. That extra velocity complements an already deep coffer of secondary pitches, which are so good that scouts disagree as to which is the best. His two-plane, 85-87 mph slider and power changeup, which rests in about the same velo range, are both plus pitches while Olson’s upper-70s curveball is merely above-average. I still have some trepidation regarding Olson’s delivery. He’s a stiff-legged, tightly-wound athlete with more mechanical violence than is typical for a starter, but even if those visual biases turn out to be meaningful, we’re talking about a high-leverage and/or multi-inning relief piece here based on how his stuff looks right now. Were the 21-year-old Olson at a Big 10 or ACC school, he’d be in the mid-to-late first round mix."

This is a nice gamble that is perfectly fine even if Olson goes nowhere. The Detroit Tigers landed some good upside in return for a player that I would rather see flying with Bill Lee on Jeff Bezos’ next space launch. There is no way I would have any interest in resigning Norris after this season as he hits free agency, it is time to move away from just arms and look for a little higher quality.

Norris had his moments, but the 2021 numbers that add up to a negative .3 BWAR on the season accurately tell the story of what he is: a replacement-level player who is not a positive contributor to winning baseball. The talent was there, it just did not happen.

Daniel Norris to me is the perfect example of how hard it is to put both the physical and mental aspects of the game together for success. It did not happen here enough, but perhaps the change of scenery could be what reinvigorates his career.

Now we move on to the Jonathan Schoop situation. How does the same principle not apply to Schoop when he is also a pending free agent who recently hired Scott Boras to represent his business interests?

Simply put, there is value in continuing to win games, build fan excitement, sell some tickets this year, and have a positive improvement in the record to show everyone, especially the more casual fans, that the rebuild is officially over, the climb towards respectability is now, and playoff contention is within sight. Getting over the 70 win mark would be a huge accomplishment for this team, and hitting 73 wins to avoid losing 90 games for the first time since 2016 would be even better.

The improved play we are seeing on the field, coupled with the anticipation of the impending Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene arrivals in 2022, and a potential free agent haul after the new CBA is signed, will all help increase the buzz slowly creeping into the air at Comerica Park.

And there is a real need on this team for Jonathan Schoop in 2022. Although he will likely hit the free agent market, he likes playing in Detroit, and the demand for him in the past has not been strong. The market for his services should be a little more robust this off-season, but keeping him here now, and signing the soon to be 30 year old to a two-year deal — 3 years maximum — is a real possibility.

Shipping Schoop off for a reliever who could be major league ready in 2022 or 2023 is a consideration, but that comes with risk, and it’s not like middle relievers aren’t available in every free agent class. There is value in showing Schoop he is wanted here. He has had little stability since departing Baltimore in a trade deadline deal in 2018, and he just may have found a home.

I can also understand the sentiment to try and sell high on José Cisnero, but I am glad Big Al decided to not test his trading skills and kept the 32-year-old reliever. While the walk rate has crept up from 3.0/9 to 4.5/9, his K/9 rate has remained over 10 and his 141 ERA+ is a positive in the back end of the bullpen.

He is worth giving the arbitration raise for 2022 over his current $970K salary. Also, after moving Daniel Norris, trading multiple arms out of the bullpen might cause A.J. Hinch to have a nervous breakdown trying to piece together games the rest of the season.

I wish I could run into Al Avila at the ballpark on this picturesque Michigan summer day as I am preparing to head down for tonight’s game against the hapless Orioles. For all the grief I have given him, much of which was deserved, for all the bashing he has taken over the years on the radio and on social media, today is a day he should be smiling and given a well earned pat on the back.

Don’t lose that little pink umbrella and have a 2nd drink Big Al, you deserve it today.

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