DETROIT — The Tigers on Wednesday parted ways with vice president/general manager Al Avila, who led the team through a difficult rebuild but paid the price for a disappointing 2022 season. Sam Menzin, vice president and assistant GM, will continue as the day-to-day point of the contact for the baseball operations department, the club announced.
“Once I decided to make a change, I sat down with Al and thanked him for his nearly 22 years of service to our organization,” said Christopher Ilitch, Detroit Tigers chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Al’s loyalty and dedication has served as an example to all during his time as a leader in our baseball operations department.
“I will oversee the search process for our next baseball operations leader, in collaboration with several members of our baseball and business operations executive teams.”
Avila had been part of the organization since 2002. He served as the top assistant to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski for more than a decade, reprising a partnership they had with the Marlins. When the Tigers dismissed Dombrowski in August 2015, then-owner Mike Ilitch promoted Avila to general manager.
The Tigers contended for an AL Wild Card spot in 2016 with a roster of veterans, several of whom had been part of four consecutive AL Central titles from 2011-14. A year later, Avila and the Tigers embarked on a long-anticipated rebuild, trading J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler.
Under Avila, the Tigers centered their rebuild around a strengthened farm system and a newfound emphasis on analytics. Toward the former end, Detroit stocked up on pitching prospects, drafting Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Casey Mize with consecutive first-round picks before adding Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson in the next couple years.
The long rebuild seemed to be turning when the Tigers — under new manager A.J. Hinch — jumped to 77 wins last year, their best season since 2016. However, Detroit sputtered this season with a bevy of injuries and struggles from several young players, including Torkelson. An anticipated selloff at last week’s Trade Deadline yielded just a couple of prospects for soon-to-be free agents Michael Fulmer and Robbie Grossman.
While Avila had success finding undervalued prospects in smaller deals, such as infielder Willi Castro for Leonys Martin in 2018 and Alex Lange for Nick Castellanos in ’19, larger deals failed to bolster the system with top prospects.