Detroit — Tigers general manager Al Avila, addressing the media face to face for the first time since the pandemic hit more than a year ago, said the urgency to flip productive players for prospects at the trade deadline is far less than it’s been in the last three or four years.
“Absolutely,” he said Friday. “We’ve already had some preliminary conversations with some general managers, even though it’s a little early…but we have a good thing going here. Teams are looking at some of our players for sure, because they’ve played good.
“But we’re not in a position right now, and I’ve told the other GMs this, where we have to make a trade. What we’re trying to do is make our team better. If we do a trade, it’s to make our team better. We want to win more games.”
That doesn’t mean that players like Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd and Jeimer Candelario are untouchable.
“At this point I don’t want to circle in on any given names, because we could be surprised by what might come about,” Avila said. “But at this stage, we are more apt to keep a good nucleus of players as we move forward and continue to build around these players.
“But you can’t ignore the fact that there might be a trade that makes you even better than you are. You still have to be open-minded.”
Veteran players on one-year deals like Jonathan Schoop, Wilson Ramos and Jose Urena could have some value to a contending team and would be more likely to be traded.
“We still have to be open to anything that might make us better as we move forward,” Avila said. “Obviously we still want to win as many games as we can. That’s really important to us. But at the same time, we can’t ignore the fact that if we have a trade that can make us better for next year or the rest of this year, we’ve got to consider that.”
Urena, or any starting pitcher, might be a harder commodity to move — simply because of the attrition rate with starting pitchers this year, the first after the COVID-shortened pandemic year.
“Everybody is really scared what’s going to happen when we move deeper into the season with pitching,” Avila said. “We’re in that middle stage where we’re still growing as a team, still trying to get better as a team. We’ve got really good pitchers that we like and we’ve got pitchers that are coming. It’s how to keep that going in the right direction without overtaxing them.
“If you end up trading one of your pitchers, then how do you keep that going? You can’t just make a trade to make a trade. You have to make sure it’s going to make your team better.”
The trade deadline (July 30) is still two months away. But activity could start sooner, given the amateur draft is at the same time. But unlike past years, Avila and the organization seem to have defined some foundation pieces to build around.
“There are some guys on this team right now that are going to be here for the foreseeable future, a number of guys on the team that you can say are part of our future, for sure,” he said. “And there is a nucleus of guys in the minor leagues who are not that far away who will be trickling in, as we’ve already seen this year.
“Between the wave of guys who just got here and the next wave that’s coming, and the guys that have been here, there’s enough players to put together a really solid club.”
Seeking a shortstop?
Avila was asked about the shortstop position, which has been in flux for two seasons. It seemed clear that the “shortstop of the future” is not on the current roster.
“It’s a position that, right now, we are looking at a lot of different options,” Avila said. “There are some guys in the minor leagues who are a little bit away. …At the end of the day, we might even look into the free agent market, you never know.”
That’s a loaded statement, right there. Because the free-agent shortstop class is expected to be talent-laden this winter, with premium players like Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javy Baez and Marcus Semien eligible to hit the market.
“It’s a position that right now we are kind of asking, who is going to be that guy?” Avila said. “Do we have him here or do we have to go outside the organization to get him?”
Around the horn
Avila said there have already been preliminary organizational discussions about promoting top prospects Spencer Torkelson, Dillon Dingler and Daniel Cabrera from High-A West Michigan to Double-A Erie.
“We’ve been talking about it,” he said. “We will let you know when we make that decision.”
… Avila and former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, now a special adviser to Avila, watched pitching prospect Matt Manning throw six strong innings on Wednesday.
“We believe there are things that can be fixed and they are being fixed as we speak,” Avila said. “We believe he is on the right track. There’s a lot of confidence in him and a lot of optimism there.”