Tigers sack Al Avila general manager after 22 seasons

The Tigers have announced that they have parted ways with executive vice president and general manager Al Avila, effective immediately, according to a team press release. Sam Menzin, vice president and assistant general manager, will continue to be the team’s daily contact, according to the release. The club’s chief executive, Christopher Ilitch, said he would oversee the search for Avila’s replacement.

“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,” Ilitch says in the press release. “Al’s loyalty and dedication served as an example to all during his tenure as a leader in our baseball operations department. I will oversee the search process for our next head of baseball operations, working with several members of our baseball leadership and business operations teams.

Avila is also quoted in the press release: “For almost 22 years, I have given my heart and soul to this franchise, and I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as Chris, for the opportunity and treatment of my family and me. like theirs,” he says. “We celebrated successes and lived through great moments, and I’m proud to have worked with so many talented people in baseball operations and throughout the organization. I will cherish our friendships and the successes we all celebrated together. To Tigers fans, you are the best and you deserve a winner. I would have liked the results to be better this season, but I know there is a lot to look forward to in the years to come.

Avila, 64, has been the club’s general manager for a few years now, taking over at the end of 2015 when Dave Dombrowski left. The club has indeed been in a deep rebuild throughout his tenure, recording a sub-0.400 winning percentage for four consecutive seasons from 2017 to 2020. They showed promising signs last year and then acted in a aggressive this winter, hoping to return. competing this season. However, they instead endured a dismal campaign, compounded by various injuries, which gave the club a 43-68 record, ahead of only the A’s among American League teams. With the rebuild struggling to bear fruit, it looks like the club have decided to change course and will start looking for a new front office arrangement for the upcoming off-season.

Although Avila has been the key front office person at Detroit for seven years now, his time with the club actually goes back much further. He was first hired in 2002, having already accumulated a decade of baseball experience, first with the Marlins and then the Pirates. His first role with the Tigers was assistant general manager and vice president, until his promotion, which made him the first Cuban-born general manager in baseball history.

When he took over as chief executive in August 2015, the rebuilding had already begun, with the club having traded David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria before the trade deadline, while Dombrowski was still at the helm. The club managed to set a winning record in 2016, but were dismal in subsequent seasons. They bottomed out in 2019, dropping from 47 to 114 for a winning percentage of just .292.

Of course, one of the benefits of poor seasons is the ability to replenish the farm system, with the Tigers having a number of top first-round picks in recent years. Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Casey Mize, Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Jackson Jobe and Jace Jung have been the club’s first-round picks since Avila took over, with Mize and Torkelson picked first tier.

With some of this group reaching the majors in recent years, the club had a decent showing in 2021. Their 77-85 record was far more acceptable than in previous seasons, leading the team to believe it was time for a change. act aggressively and end the tanking process. The Tigers followed by spending big, signing Javier Baez to $140 million, $77 million to Eduardo Rodriguez, $13 million to Andrew Chafin and $5.5 million to Michael Pineda. The club has also turned to the commercial market by acquiring Reds’ Tucker Barnhart and Austin Meadows of the Rays.

Unfortunately, all of these moves failed for various reasons, which only compounded other issues on the roster. Mercurial Baez is hitting .220/.262/.372 on the season for a wRC+ of 77. Rodriguez has only made eight starts for the team due to injuries and personal issues. Chafin has pitched well but he can opt out of the second year of his contract, which he looks likely to do. Pineda has only made 10 starts due to injury and has a 5.27 ERA on the year. Barnhart hit .198/.258/.228 for a wRC+ of 41, while Meadows only played 36 games due to various injuries.

In addition to the struggles of the new additions, the club’s mainstays have also failed to deliver in various ways. Former first overall pick Spencer Torkelson made the opening day roster but struggled enough to get an option until the minors last month. Riley Greene missed the start of the season with injury and has been below average since joining the team. Matt Manning was limited to just four starts a year due to injuries, while Mize only made two appearances before Tommy John surgery ended his season.

All this cannot be placed at Avila’s feet, of course, certainly not the injuries. Yet after years and years of agonizing rebuilding, the club and its fans were surely hoping for more signs of good things to come on the horizon and have found little to none this year.

Ilitch and the Tigers will now try to find a new leader to guide the team into its next step. Given the club’s struggles this year, the organization will consider another strong draft position next summer, to add to young talent who, despite struggling in 2022, could still be key players in seasons to come. . There is also another important pivot point looming on the horizon, as the guaranteed final season of Miguel Cabrera’s massive contract is 2023, which will free up both a roster spot and plenty of payroll space. Who decides how to handle these situations in the future will be determined in the coming months.

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