Al Avila’s firing a step toward a necessary systemic shift for Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch speaks at a press conference at Comerica Park in Detroit after the firing of general manager Al Avila Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch speaks at a press conference at Comerica Park in Detroit after the firing of general manager Al Avila Wednesday, August 10, 2022. /

On Wednesday the Detroit Tigers announced they fired GM Al Avila

In a move that had been highly anticipated over the past couple of weeks, the Detroit Tigers and owner Chris Illitch announced the inevitable; that Detroit Tigers General Manager Al Avila had been relieved of his duties; citing lack of progress, specifically at the major league level, during year seven of his tenure.

The timing comes as a modest surprise considering the timing of the amateur draft and the trading deadline. Still, ownership was willing to allow the season to play out, and when the season’s fate had been decided, beginning the search process as soon as possible became invaluable.

As much as this season was a disappointment, it became difficult to see a path to contention for the Tigers even in the next two or three seasons. This goes beyond bad luck and injuries–the 2022 Detroit Tigers exposed a hole in the philosophy of this organization and how to build a winning team.

While they received some help from unexpected sources in the likes of Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, and Garrett Hill among others, their organizational success hinged much too heavily on the success of their high draft picks being healthy and productive. Torkelson struggled, Greene got injured, Mize had Tommy John surgery, and their season was history.

These issues aren’t bound to this season either, though. Riley Greene, Tarik Skubal, Gregory Soto, and Alex Lange are essentially the only tradeable assets that would fetch a sizeable return. Greene is showing promise but taking his lumps as a 21-year-old, Skubal has been the sole bright spot in an injury-filled starter room, and Soto and Lange are relievers which mitigates return (see the Jorge Lopez trade with Minnesota and Baltimore).

So that’s two players the organization would rather keep, and another two that probably aren’t going to yield what they would want in return. Selling off isn’t realistic beyond what they did at the trade deadline with trading Michael Fulmer and Robbie Grossman, but buying MLB commodities could thin out their farm in a hurry, too.

There is some depth now present that they haven’t had in a while, but this is far from the system with the blue-chippers of Mize, Skubal, Manning, Greene, and Torkelson–meaning they’d have to include multiples of guys to get impact back. That depth they have now could thin out in a hurry with just a couple of trades.

Besides that, though, this team is probably still 8-10 pieces away from making some real noise, so if they traded for two of those pieces by leveraging their prospect capital, it likely still means a bad MLB product for at least a couple years while they try to continue to add and it’s now accompanied by one of the worst farms in the game.

There is nowhere to go.

Sure, free agency exists, but with players continuing to sign extensions with their existing teams, it suppresses the classes and makes it tougher for teams like the Tigers to get in on higher-end talent. Apart from that fact, convincing stars to join the situation I described above is a tough sales pitch.

Ironically, this corner they’ve backed themselves into comes after the rebuild was deemed to be finished, and gone were the days of losing on purpose for a top draft pick. It’s beyond managerial decisions or an injured list stint. It’s talent identification, development, and creativity.

The Detroit Tigers don’t need a bloated payroll to win, but they do need to be more resourceful in exploring every avenue to make their organization better. With new leadership will come new philosophy. If the intention is to continue to build as owner Chris Illitch referenced in his presser, it will take swift and major action to improve.

Next. Detroit Tigers: 5 players to watch for the rest of 2022. dark