DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 4: Al Avila laughs during a news conference at Comerica Park after he was promoted to executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager on August 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Avila replaces Dave Dombrowski who was the Tigers’ general manager since 2002. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers avoided some of their worst-case scenarios this season. They didn’t finish last, or all that close to it.

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In the end, however, they had the same record as in 2017, and the franchise still seems a long way from contention.

“Not everything is going to go perfect. As you know, some things are going to turn out good, some not,” general manager Al Avila said. “I feel we had a good year for the first year of our rebuild. We played with a lot of players that made their major league debuts. We saw some good performances and we saw some that were not as good.”

Detroit went 64-98, the same record the Tigers had last year, when they ended up tied for the worst record in baseball. There were a few teams worse than that this season, which may have contributed to the sense that Detroit was exceeding expectations.

The Tigers are hoping some of the prospects in their system turn into players they can build around. In that respect, 2018 has been inconclusive. Detroit hasn’t yet been able to bring a significant number of top prospects to the majors.

MILWAUKEE, WI – SEPTEMBER 28: Niko Goodrum #28 of the Detroit Tigers is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning of a game at Miller Park on September 28, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

“This is just the beginning. If you think we are young now wait until next year,” said Ron Gardenhire, who was in his first season managing the Tigers. “We’ll see. That’s the goal is to get all these young kids up here and play them. Triple-A is going to be full of prospects. Guys that are knocking on the door.”


DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 20: Christin Stewart #14 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates his three-run home run that scored Pete Kozma #33 of the Detroit Tigers and JaCoby Jones #21 of the Detroit Tigers against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Comerica Park on September 20, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Royals 11-8. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Outfielder Christin Stewart, Detroit’s No. 6 prospect according to , made his big league debut this season, playing in 17 games. He hit 25 home runs in the minors this year. The team’s top five prospects on that list are all pitchers, and they’re at varying stages. Casey Mize, the top pick in this year’s draft, made five starts in the low levels of the minors. Franklin Perez, who came to the organization in the trade for Justin Verlander in 2017, was limited to seven minor league starts this year by injury problems . Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows have all pitched at Double-A, and they’ll be prospects to watch in 2019.


Detroit shed a lot of salary in 2017, trading Verlander and Justin Upton. Victor Martinez’s big contract comes off the books now, but as a rebuilding team, the Tigers aren’t likely to be big spenders in the short term.

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“I don’t know what payroll is going to look like. It could very easily come down, it could stay neutral,” Avila said. “I’m trying my best not to make it any higher because that’s not where we want to go. It’s my goal to set up the organization’s foundation moving forward for success.”


KANSAS CITY, MO – MAY 3: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers sits in the dugout as he watches a game against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium on May 3, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

One player still with the Tigers who has a huge contract is Miguel Cabrera, whose future production is certainly in doubt at age 35. Cabrera played only 38 games this year before being lost for the season because of left biceps surgery.


CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 15: Michael Fulmer #32 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at Progressive Field on September 15, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Tigers 15-0. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

There are times when Michael Fulmer looks like exactly the type of cost-controlled player the Tigers need — but now the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year is recovering from a knee issue. Fulmer’s 2018 showing wasn’t terribly encouraging: He went 3-12 with a 4.69 ERA.


DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 24: Joe Jimenez #77 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at Comerica Park on August 24, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The teams are wearing their Players Weekend jerseys and hats. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 7-2. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Reliever Joe Jimenez made the All-Star team, although the 23-year-old right-hander did not have a very good second half. Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos had a fine season with the bat, hitting .298 with 23 home runs.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 25: Nicholas Castellanos #9 and Mikie Mahtook #8 of the Detroit Tigers celebrate scoring against the Minnesota Twins during the eighth inning of the game on September 25, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Tigers defeated the Twins 4-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

“As far as a multiyear contract with Nick, it’s something where we have to, at this point, figure will he be here when we are ready to contend for the playoffs? That’s the big question,” Avila said. “If you are going to tell me over the next couple of years we’re going to be a team that’s going to be going to the postseason, that would be an easy thing to answer and say we want to try to keep Nick around. But right now, we are trying to assess if he could fit.”

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