When do you know your rebuild didn’t work?
For former Tigers general manager Al Avila, the answer came last Wednesday, when Detroit announced his firing, ending his 22-year career working for the franchise in various roles.
The news was not surprising, given the circumstances. Last season, after a four-year stretch in which Detroit lost nearly 100 games for every 162 it played, the Tigers climbed to 77 wins. Thanks to high draft picks during the lean years, they had amassed a trio of high-ranking pitching prospects who were already in the majors (Casey Mize, Matt Manning, tarik skubal) and two of the best and most sought-after hitting prospects in the game ready to join them (Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene). Finally, this winter seemed like the right time to make a splash and start a new era of contention.
And sensation was what they caused. The Tigers signed the shortstop Javier Baez (6 years, $140 million), starter Edward Rodriguez (5 years, $77 million) and reliever Andrew Chafin (2 years, $13 million) with multi-year contracts. the opener michael pineda signed for one year, $5.5 million.
We know what happened next: disaster.
The Tigers are on pace to lose more than 100 games behind an offense that has flirted with historic ineptitude. Young pitchers have been hurt. Chafin has pitched well, but early results from the rest of the free-agent signings are worrisome. Torkelson missed out at the plate and ended up back in the minor leagues before the All-Star break, and while Greene has been better, he hasn’t exploded onto the scene either. With so many prospects graduating to the major leagues, the Tigers dropped from 13th in Kiley McDaniel’s preseason prospect rankings. to No. 24 after the trade deadline.
In other words, nothing went right and now Ávila, a loyal and respected baseball player, is gone.
The start of the Tigers’ rebuild can be traced back to 2017, when they followed up an 86-75 season with a 98-loss campaign and traded veteran ace Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros. With this year’s disappointment, does this mean the Tigers’ rebuild failed? Maybe. It may be too early to tell. But be that as it may, its duration has reached six years, and the end is not yet in sight.
Such are the dangers of reconstruction. Noise can be made about trying to compete right now as the organization transforms into a unit built for the annual contest. The team gets younger. Payroll starts to drop. Free agency is almost ignored. The losses are piling up and first-round draft picks are starting to land in the single digits. Your most intense fans start to obsess over the prospect rankings more than the actual games.
The question then is: how long will this reconstruction take? Will it ever be worth it?
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When does a rebuild fail? Inside the Detroit Tigers mess and what it means for his team