By: Will Burchfield
Al Avila made one thing clear in his end-of-the-year press conference on Tuesday: The Tigers cannot continue to operate as they have in the recent past.
“Changes are coming,” he said.
In short, the Tigers’ general manager feels the team needs to follow a more efficient front-office approach.
“We want to get younger. We want to get leaner. We want to run the organization without having to go over our means,” Avila said.
The Tigers had the fourth-highest payroll in the MLB last season, surpassing $200 million for the first time in franchise history. But the investment didn’t yield success, as the team failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Detroit was eliminated from postseason contention on the final day of the 2016 season. And according to Avila, the Tigers will not be doubling down on their free-spending philosophy.
“(The payroll) is not going to go up, I don’t think,” he said, before adding, “Usually it will be the opposite.”
In order for the Tigers to shed salary, there are number of high-paid veterans who could be traded. Every player figures to be on the table, most notably Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, both of whom are coming off strong seasons.
“Changes that we want to make are going to be dictated by what’s available on the trade market,” Avila said.
When it comes to free agency, the GM confirmed Detroit will not be making any major moves this offseason. That stands in stark contrast to years past, when the Tigers have outspent the market to sign the likes of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann, and handed out big-money extensions to Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
Such extravagant spending has led to little playoff success, which, coupled with the Tigers’ declining attendance, brings the team’s business approach into question. Avila feels the Tigers need to find a way to remain competitive without operating like one of the richest organizations in the league.
“It’s going to be a process, and at some points it may be painful,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but it has to be done.”
Still, Avila clarified the Tigers aren’t tearing things down and starting over.
“We can’t call it a rebuild, because we haven’t broken anything down,” Avila said. “I don’t know if there’s term for what I want to do here.”
Perhaps “re-alignment” would be a better description. Either way, the Tigers seem intent on living by more austere measures moving forward.
Asked what he would say in regard to the Tigers making the playoffs in 2017, Avila responded, “That’s our hope.”