By: Will Burchfield
Back and forth we go.
No they’re not.
GM Al Avila made some foreboding comments at the end of last season, but has softened his stance in the months since. He threw more cold water on the Tigers’ trade outlook on Monday, downplaying the idea that he is compelled to cut payroll.
“This organization is in a situation where, at this point, we really don’t have to make moves based on finances or salaries or any of that. Quite frankly, if we can make a good deal we probably will, if not then we can just move forward with our players. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now,” Avila told the High Heat show on MLB Network.
The Tigers’ approximate $200 million payroll is the second highest in baseball. That’s well beyond the team’s market size, not to mention over the luxury tax threshold. Avila has talked adamantly about avoiding this year’s luxury tax and is well aware he needs to run a leaner, more efficient organization.
But he doesn’t seem at all interested in trading players solely for the sake of shedding salary.
Even in regard to J.D. Martinez, who the Tigers are all but assured to lose via free agency this coming offseason, Avila is taking a blow-me-away approach. Detroit is currently eight games under .500 and six games out of a playoff spot.
“He’s obviously a highly-coveted guy. He had a great week this past week and he’s having a great season. He’s probably one of the premier power hitters in the American League, if not all of baseball. We have had inquiries on J.D. and we’ll see where that takes us. Again, if there’s a good deal to be made we will probably move forward. If not, then we’ll stay the course,” Avila said.
The Tigers GM could be posturing, of course. He has nothing to gain by alerting the rest of the league he’s desperate to make trades. By removing the blatant “For Sale” sign on Martinez and others, he may well solicit some better offers.
One player that appears to be patently off the market is Michael Fulmer. Teams have inquired about the young pitcher — and there’s a case to be made for the Tigers to trade him — but Avila is hardly shopping him.
“It’s kind of muddied the waters because there’s speculation that we have him out there, and we don’t,” said Avila. “You can’t stop teams from calling you and inquiring, and we’re not gonna be so naïve where we’re just gonna say, ‘No, we’re not even gonna listen.’ I learned many, many years ago that if you can get two Michael Fulmers for one, that’s a pretty good trade.
“But in saying that, the probability of that happening is probably zero. It’s all speculation at this point. You can never say never, but it’s not probable at this point.”
Avila did say, however, that the Tigers have had several conversations on various players and expects a deal “could happen in the next week or two.”
He admitted the trade deadline has posed the challenge of separating business from emotion. He has personal connections to two of the team’s top trade candidates in Martinez and his son Alex Avila.
“It’s actually a very difficult situation for me. I’m very close and have a lot of close relationships with our players, but at the end of the day we really have to take inventory and do what’s right for the organization,” said Avila.
“I’ve known J.D. since he was a kid, he’s almost like my son,” he added. “Some of these guys it’s very difficult for me to even talk about.”