Detroit – Al Avila was asked on Thursday if this series against the Central Division-leading Twins could impact the Tigers’ plan at the trade deadline. Meaning, if they swept the Twins, would he be more inclined to buy and if they got swept, would he be more inclined to sell.
The answer was a resounding no.
No, because this truncated 2020 season is an outlier. These two months of competition will have no significant bearing — win, lose or draw — on the trajectory of the Tigers rebuilding plan. Check that. It could have a negative bearing, certainly, if the club made a foolhardy push to get into an expanded playoff pool to win a championship that will come with, if not an asterisk, then certainly a lengthy explanation of why this one isn’t like all the others.
No, because there is great uncertainty still regarding what the 2021 season will look like. Will the virus relent enough to allow fans back into stadiums? And if so, how many — 50 percent capacity, 20 percent? There is no cost certainty for teams right now. To take on long-term contracts, to give up building-block prospects for short-term rental players, understanding, too, that the whole financial landscape of baseball could change with a new collective bargaining agreement after the 2021 season — it’s just not prudent. The risks outweigh the reward.
So, no, Avila is not going to throw the rebuilding plan he’s patiently, steadfastly, stuck to for three years out the window to make a run at a wild card spot in a stand-alone 2020 season.
“In our situation, we’re not looking to add a big piece or trade away any of our good prospects,” the Tigers general manager said. “At the same time, if we had a player we felt a team needed from us and we can better ourselves for next year or for the near future, then we have to be open-minded to that.”
So, hypothetically, if a team came calling about Daniel Norris — a pitcher that could help a team either as a starter or out of the bullpen — the Tigers would listen to what that team had to offer. With prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal already in the rotation, with veteran Ivan Nova close to returning, and with Norris pitching well and a second-year arbitration candidate this off-season, he could be moved.
Matthew Boyd could fit that scenario, as well. But Spencer Turnbull does not. The Tigers have four more years of control with Turnbull. It would take a heck of a haul to pry him away.
Also, if a team wanted an experienced outfielder without any contract obligations beyond this season, certainly the Tigers will listen to offers on Cameron Maybin. There have been reports that the Cubs have expressed interest in Maybin.
“But if that type of deal is not there, we’ll keep our team,” Avila said. “We like our team. We will keep it together and keep trying to win. Even if we make a trade, that’s still our goal, to continue to win more games this year and to for sure make ourselves better for next year and the years going forward.”
Avila said he’d been in contract with about 20 teams and they all were mostly in the same situation as the Tigers going into the final weekend before the Monday deadline.
“It was like a broken record, everybody going through similar things — injuries, lack of performance, playing a lot of games in a row with few days off,” he said. “Some teams are looking for pitching, as always. But it’s really hard to gauge how much a team is really going to go out and try to add and how much they are willing to give up to add in this short period of time.
“Everything is really uncertain at this time.”
Avila said he wouldn’t call the Tigers buyers or sellers — just listeners.
“We’re looking for an opportunity to make our team better this year and for years after that,” he said.