Avila Tormented By Two Failed Free Agent Signings

By Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

Al Avila wakes up with a stabbing sensation in his side every morning.

It stems from two of his worst free-agent signings as general manager of the Detroit Tigers: Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe.

Both pitchers received lucrative deals from the Tigers in the 2015 offseason. Both of them were cut a year later. Both of them are still being paid by the team.

“It’s a knife in my side every single day when I wake up. There’s no way of getting around that,” Avila said on Friday. “Obviously we’re very disappointed in those situations.”

The Tigers inked Pelfrey to a two-year, $16 million contract in December of 2015. He went 4-10 with a 5.07 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 2016. He was released at the conclusion of spring training in 2017. Pelfrey will earn $8 million from the Tigers this season, even as he’s pitching for the A.L. Central rival Chicago White Sox.

“At the time, when we signed Pelfrey, we felt that we had a guy that was going to give us a lot of innings, a number five starter that could give us a lot of innings. It didn’t work out that way. He tried everything he could, we tried everything we could and sometimes it just doesn’t work and a change of scenery is the only way out. Obviously that was a disappointment for us,” said Avila.

Just days after the Pelfrey signing, the Tigers agreed with Lowe on a two-year, $11 million contact. The reliever was ghastly in 2016, posting a 7.11 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. He, too, was cut during spring training and will be compensated by the Tigers this season. The team owes him $5.5 million. He is currently a member of the Seattle Mariners.

“With Mark Lowe, he had a very good season the year before. He had built up to really help Seattle and then he went to Toronto. We had coaches that coached him and he just fell off the face of the earth. I mean, how does that happen? But it happens. You guys know with relief pitchers, there’s a lot of volatility,” said Avila.

“We’re terribly disappointed in those two acquisitions,” he added.

Another signing from the 2015 offseason that threatens to haunt Avila is Jordan Zimmermann. Since the right-hander agreed to a five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers, he has a 5.42 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. The signs this season have been far from promising.

But Avila is holding out hope that the 31-year-old can recover his form.

“With Zimmerman, the book isn’t closed on him. We feel that we have high expectations that he can bounce back and be a real good effective pitcher,” Avila said.

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