| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila on free agency: ‘We’ll see where it takes us’
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila stopped by The Corner Ballpark on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, and spoke about his approach to the offseason.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Sergio Alcantara is having a season to remember for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League.
Through 16 games in the Dominican Republic, Alcantara owns a .340 batting average, two doubles, one triple, two home runs and six RBIs. He has six walks and 14 strikeouts, plus a game-winning web gem as the team’s everyday shortstop.
The 24-year-old is 2-for-2 on stolen base attempts and has a .429 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage. His only blemish: five errors — but five double plays turned — in 64 chances (.922 fielding percentage).
THE FUTURE: Al Avila won’t seek winning baseball in 2021. He seeks something bigger
FREE AGENCY: Tigers banking on infield flexibility, debating a move at catcher
On Friday, Tigres del Licey held a 6-5 lead over Águilas Cibaeñas with two outs in the final inning of a doubleheader. With a runner on second base, Melky Cabrera, a 15-year MLB veteran, bounced a 3-2 pitch up the middle.
That’s when Alcantara stepped up on defense for the win. (In the fourth inning, he had a two-run single to give Tigres del Licey a 6-4 lead. And in the second inning, his triple drove in a run.)
On Saturday, Alcantara unloaded for a solo home run in the first inning against 37-year-old righty Radhames Liz, who played four MLB seasons (2007-09, 2015). Alcantara typically bats No. 9 in the lineup, but was slotted in the No. 2 spot in Saturday’s matchup with Estrellas Orientales.
He has returned to the bottom of the order since.
Home runs don’t come often for Alcantara. He only had nine in 2,266 minor-league at-bats across seven seasons. In his 10 games for the Tigers in 2020, he went 3-for-21 (.143) and launched a homer in the first at-bat of his career.
Third baseman Isaac Paredes has continued his success, as well, for Venados de Mazatlán in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. In 27 games, he is 33-for-94 (.351) with eight doubles, three homers and 18 RBIs, with 15 walks and 10 strikeouts.
On Thursday, Paredes — who debuted for the Tigers in 2020 and played 34 games — crushed his third home run.
[ Why Tigers like the work Isaac Paredes is doing in Mexican winter league ]
Paredes is riding a five-game hitting streak and has a .442 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage. The 21-year-old has three errors in 70 chances (.957 fielding percentage) as the everyday third baseman.
Candelario starts slow
Jeimer Candelario — the 2020 Tiger of the Year — is three games into his season with Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League. He is 1-for-11 (.091) with one RBI, one walk and one strikeout. His only hit was a fifth-inning RBI double Saturday.
Making his debut Thursday, Candelario has played two games at third base and one game as the designated hitter. In three fielding chances, he hasn’t made an error.
The 27-year-old started the 2020 season as the Tigers’ third baseman but ended up playing 43 of his 52 games at first base because of C.J. Cron’s season-ending knee injury. Candelario has 258 games at third base and 64 at first base in his five-year MLB career.
“Ideally, probably, third base might be the best thing for (Candelario),” Tigers general manager Al Avila said Saturday. “I think, also, the ability to play first base is good for him, too.”
[ Detroit Tigers banking on infield flexibility, debating a move at catcher ]
Candelario finished last season with a .297 batting average, 11 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 52 games.
Soto, Cisnero make debuts
Left-hander Gregory Soto, who cracks 100 mph with his fastball, made his Dominican Winter League debut Wednesday for Águilas Cibaeñas. He tossed a perfect sixth inning with a strikeout.
In two innings across two appearances, the 25-year-old reliever has not allowed a hit or a run to the seven batters he faced. He has one strikeout and one walk.
Soto logged a 4.30 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 29 strikeouts and 13 walks in 23 innings (27 games) last season for the Tigers. It was his second year in the majors.
Right-hander Jose Cisnero made his debut Sunday for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. He pitched in the seventh inning and gave up one walk without further damage. The 31-year-old recorded one strikeout.
Last year, Cisnero had a 3.03 ERA for the Tigers in 29⅔ innings. He had 34 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Another notable is right-hander Drew Carlton, who pitched for Double-A Erie in 2019. This offseason, he is with Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The 25-year-old has a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings (13 games), with 11 strikeouts, one walk, eight hits and one run allowed.
[ Drew Carlton ‘keeps having success’ as MLB journey stops in Dominican Republic ]
Cameron finds new team
Outfielder Daz Cameron was set to play for Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League, which got underway Tuesday, but his team decided in late November not to compete this winter.
Cameron, 23, was granted permission to negotiate with other teams and joined Indios de Mayagüez, one of the four squads playing in Puerto Rico. It’s unclear when he will join the active roster.
In 2020, Cameron made his MLB debut and played 17 games for the Tigers. He batted .193 (11-for-57) with two doubles, one triple and three RBIs. He had two walks and 19 strikeouts.
Pitcher opts out
As the Australian Baseball League begins Thursday, 27-year-old righty Joe Navilhon has opted out from the Sydney Blue Sox for personal reasons.
“The strict Australian borders have had a lot of rules since COVID broke out, and one which they have never wavered from the absolute NO processing of partners or children,” Blue Sox owner Adam Dobb said in a statement. “Alessandro (Maestri) and Joe both have wives and children, and as true family men, are not prepared to spend Christmas and three months alone without them in their lives.”
In 2019, Navilhon pitched for High-A Lakeland (15 innings), Double-A Erie (40 innings) and Triple-A Toledo (8⅔ innings). He had a combined 4.10 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 68 strikeouts and 17 walks across 38 games (three starts).
[ With dark days behind him, Tigers’ Zack Short ready to blossom ]
Even though Navilhon isn’t playing, the Blue Sox have two 26-year-old outfielders from Detroit’s organization: Cam Gibson and Jacob Robson. The Blue Sox’s first game is Thursday at 3:30 a.m. ET against the Melbourne Aces.
Another Tiger, outfielder Ulrich Bojarski, is playing in the ABL for the Perth Heat. His first game is Thursday. The 22-year-old hit .256 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs between Single-A West Michigan (104 games) and High-A Lakeland (22 games) in 2019.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.