If you’ve paid attention to the Tigers over the last few seasons, you would know that the Tigers have made plenty of trades, with lots being very unpopular amongst Tigers fans. That said, I think it would be fun if we took a deep dive into all of the past trades that general manager Al Avila has made since taking his position in August of 2015.
Photo by Mike Mulholland, MLive
11/18/2015: Tigers acquire Francisco “K-rod” Rodriguez from the Brewers in exchange for Javier Bethancourt and a PTBNL (Manny Pina) // GRADE: C
After a disaster of a 2015 season, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch new the time was ticking and wanted a World Series giving GM Al Avila the green light to start spending. The first move was acquiring a 34-year-old closer, Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers sent a 20-year-old prospect in Javier Betancourt and a PTBNL who ended up being 27-year-old third catcher Manny Pina who hit very well in Toledo. Looking back on that deal, it seems pretty clear that the Brewers won that trade by a fair amount. The Tigers were able to get solid production out of K-rod in the closer role for a season, but in 2017 he ended up having to get released he was so bad, and Pina, on the other hand, developed a respectable backup for the Brewers. If the Tigers had Pina in 2019, they likely wouldn’t have had to blow 4.5 million on a 1 year deal for Austin Romine and prioritize their other needs elsewhere.
11/20/2015: Tigers acquire Cameron Maybin from the Braves in exchange for Ian Krol and Gabe Speier // Grade: B+
One of Al Avila’s better trades, the Tigers were able to get their CF for 2016 for relatively cheap. This move isn’t an absolute steal as Maybin had a back contract so a trade like this is expected and Krol did have some solid seasons with the Braves though overall the Tigers were definitely a clear winner in this deal.
12/9/2015: Tigers acquire Justin Wilson from the Yankees in exchange for Chad Green and Luis Cessa // Grade: D+
As the Tigers continued to build their roster for the 2016 season, adding a high-level lefty reliever with control was a very good move by Al Avila, however, the Tigers ended up dealing a reliever that is now top 15 in the league. Dealing Cessa who was considered the main piece just for Wilson would’ve been a steal, but Chad Green developed into such a good reliever with way more control than Wilson, that will always be the bigger story looking back at this deal.
1/27/2016: Tigers trade Jefry Marte to the Angels in exchange for Kody Eaves // Grade: B-
A very small trade, the Tigers were able to get solid depth at 3B in exchange for an older 3B that was going to have some trouble getting time behind the Tigers infield in 2016. Eaves is no longer a Tiger and is 26 but could have a similar career to Marte if he gets a shot as both have similar attributes. Overall, this trade is very meaningless and I’ll just give Al a not good, not bad grade at B-.
3/29/2016: Tigers acquire Bobby Wilson and Myles Jaye in exchange for Bryan Holaday // Grade: B-
Another very small trade, the Tigers chose a third catcher with defense over a third catcher with more than a bat. Holaday is a little more valuable, the Tigers got a low-end prospect in Myles Jaye. In 2017 Jaye got 3 starts but was awful and eventually outrighted to free agency. He is now 28 and a free agent.
5/3/2016: Tigers trade Bobby Wilson to the Rangers for Chad Bell // Grade: B-
James McCann came off the IL and a Rangers catcher was hurt. The Tigers didn’t need Wilson as a backup catcher anymore and shipped him back to the Rangers for a minor league LHP. Bell was pretty bad in his 1 season with Detroit. He played 1 game in 2018 before being DFA’d. Most recently he was in the KBO and pitched very well there. Overall another depth move that doesn’t impact the Tigers now.
8/16/2016: Tigers acquire Erick Aybar from the Braves in exchange for Mike Aviles and Kade Scivicque // Grade: A-
With the Tigers left side of the infield both hurt, the Tigers were able to get a short term replacement in former all-star Erick Aybar. At first, it looked like a pretty even trade as both teams were getting played with over a -1.0 WAR, though Aviles was instantly DFA’d and released, and Aybar played pretty well for the Tigers slashing .250/.341/.350 for a .691 OPS, a home run, 8 RBIs, and a 0.2 WAR. The prospect sent in the deal Kade Scivicque ended up signing back with Detroit as well.
11/3/2016: Tigers trade Cameron Maybin to the Angels for Victor Alcantara. // Grade: B
The Tigers main goal in the 2016 offseason was to cut payroll and they did a nice job doing that shipping off Cameron Maybin to the Angels for Alcantara less than 24 hours after the season ended. Maybin had a 9 million dollar option that the Tigers weren’t willing to exercise but Angels were willing to. In exchange, the Tigers received Victor Alcantara who at best was a borderline MLB reliever, but at least helped the Tigers a little bit in 2018 and 2019, and getting Alcantara wasn’t the objective of the trade. Maybin now has returned to Detroit, and overall the trade was better than it seemed.
1/18/2017: Tigers acquire Mikie Mahtook from the Rays in exchange for a PTBNL (Drew Smith) // Grade: B
After trading Maybin, with a limited budget the Tigers were able to add a cheap, young outfielder in Mikie Mahtook for relatively cheap. Mahtook was very good in 2017 and that season alone is the reason why I gave Avila a B. While things went downhill for Mahtook after 2017, Drew Smith was traded a year later to the New York Mets never making a major league appearance with Tampa. Smith did get an opportunity and pitched really well out the bullpen in 2018 with New York but hasn’t pitched since as he underwent Tommy John Surgery. It will be interesting to see how his career plays out.
7/18/2017: Tigers trade JD Martinez to the Diamondbacks for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King // Grade: F
If you think of bad Tigers trades in the last 5 years, this is likely one of the first trades you’d think about. Martinez with Detroit in 2017 was slashing .305/.388/.63 and despite being a rental was one of the top names in the trade market. In exchange for him, the Tigers received 3 played. The first being Dawel Lugo who was considered the main piece. Lugo in 3 seasons with the Tigers is slashing .237/.270/.362, good enough for a -1.0 WAR, he is currently out of seasons and depending on if the Tigers play with or without expanded rosters will determine if Lugo will be DFA’d or not as he’s out of Major League options. The next name is Sergio Alcantara who is considered by most in the 25-35 range for his rank as a prospect in the system. He is a great defender as he has the best infield arm in the Tigers organization, however, he has absolutely no power and that is not an exaggeration. Since this trade, Alcantara has gone on to hit 3 home runs in the minor leagues. Alcantara has the upside to be a utility player, at best. The last guy is Jose King. He has legit speed and at the time looked like a possible sleeper through the system, however, he’s now 21 and hit .209 in A ball with a 68 wRC+, the odds of him becoming anything are extremely low. Overall this trade will likely go down as the worst trade in Al Avila’s tenure.
7/31/2017: Tigers trade Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes // Grade: B+
The second trade of the 2017 deadline is looking much better than the first. The Tigers shipped off a hot-hitting Alex Avila and late-inning reliever Justin Wilson and got 2 very solid batting prospects. The main piece of this trade for the Tigers was Jeimer Candelario. In his Tigers career, Candelario got off to a very nice start, in 2017 he hit .330 with a .874 OPS. In 2018, he hit 19 HR’s and accumulated a 2.5 WAR at 3B. In 2019, Candelario really struggled to the point where he was optioned to AAA, now in 2020, Candelario is in a make or break year and needs to prove that he is a part of the future or he could find himself being DFA’d. The next guy, who was only 18 at the time of this trade is Isaac Paredes. Paredes has developed very well through the system and is now a top 100 prospect on most lists. Paredes added to the 40 man roster had a 133 wRC+ with a near .800 OPS in AA as a 20-year-old. He appears as someone that has a very high floor and even at his young age will begin producing right away. He is the reason for this good grade, this grade could easily change if Paredes turns out to be a bust, but from the looks of it, Paredes looks like a 2-3 WAR guy for multiple seasons, and overall a very solid trade by Avila.
8/31/2017: Tigers trade Justin Upton to Angels in exchange for Grayson Long and PTBNL (Elvin Rodriguez) // Grade: C+
This trade is another example of more of a salary dump than a trade for prospects. While Upton was expected to opt-out, this gave the Tigers leverage to be able to move him and the Tigers were lucky to get value in return. Upton in the first half of 2017 slashed .273/.362/.542 and was having one of the best career seasons of his career and with his contract, the Tigers were able to get 2 prospects out of him. The main piece of this deal was Grayson Long who pitched a total of 4 career innings as Detroit Tiger, dealing with thyroid outlet syndrome and retiring in early 2019 because of that. The PTBNL, Elvin Rodriguez was a 19-year-old who had only made a few starts in A ball and has pitched pretty well in the Tigers minor league system, entering the back of most top 30 lists. Overall this isn’t the worst trade Avila could make and you have to cut him some slack with the Long injury.
8/31/17: Tigers trade Justin Verlander to the Astros in exchange for Daz Cameron, Jake Rogers, and Franklin Perez // Grade: C-
This trade is another trade that many will consider one of Al Avila’s terrible moves, though I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as most people think. The main piece Franklin Perez has had a rough go pitching not even 50 innings since coming to Detroit. Finally, there is a glimmer of hope though, as Perez has pitched in spring training games and has finally said he’s fully healthy and ready to go. If Perez is fully healthy he can be a very good pitcher. The next name is Daz Cameron. Daz at the time was just 20 but now on the 40 man roster, Daz looks very close to reaching the major leagues. Daz spent all of 2019 in Toledo and he didn’t hit much only slashing .214/.330/.377, but there’s still a lot of upside and Daz has overcome struggles in his career, I still think he can be a 2-3 WAR guy yearly at centerfield or rightfield. The final piece is Jake Rogers. Rogers was the first of the 3 to make his MLB debut and things went completely south for him at the MLB level as it was clear he was overmatched. Now changing up his swing, Rogers ended spring training on a good note and still has upside to be one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Most of the Tigers pitching prospects say Rogers is one of the best catchers they’ve thrown too, and Rodgers is a leader. Overall I think the Tigers got some good value in exchange for Verlander and it’s way too early to say this was a bust of a trade, however, with the way Verlander has played in Houston, the Tigers definitely lost this deal.
12/13/2017: Tigers trade Ian Kinsler to the Angels for Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery // Grade: B
The Tigers once again called up their buddies in the Angels organization to ship a player with a bad contract in exchange for low-end prospects. That is exactly what this trade is as Kinsler was entering his age 36 year and was going to make 11 million dollars in 2018 while the Tigers were trying to cut payroll and make up their roster with younger, cheaper options. The 2 prospects the Tigers received were Troy Montgomery, who was considered the main piece and Wilkel Hernandez who was 18 at the time. Montgomery at 25, retired early in the 2019 season after struggles in AA. Hernandez on the other side has developed into a decent prospect with potentially 2 plus major league pitches, only 20, if Hernandez can keep pitching well there may be a chance he winds up on multiple top 30 lists. Overall, it was good the Tigers were just able to get Kinsler’s salary off the books and still have a solid developing prospect from that deal.
7/31/2018: Tigers trade Leonys Martin and Kyle Dowdy to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Willi Castro // Grade: A
One of the best series of moves by Al Avila was getting Leonys Martin for almost nothing on the free-agent market, maximizing his value, and getting Willi Castro for him in a trade. While I’m not as high on Castro as most, he’s still a top 20 prospect in the organization and should be a safe bet to be a 1-2 WAR guy for a couple of seasons for Martin who was released in 2019 by the Indians. Dowdy also sent in the deal might go on to become a solid reliever with Cleveland, but would have to be pretty good reliever to even get close to value that Detroit got back for Castro in the deal. Overall great trade by Avila and the front office.
8/6/2018: Tigers acquire 2 PTBNL’s (Logan Shore) (Nolan Blackwood) from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Mike Fiers // Grade: C
The Tigers were able to get 2 prospects out of Mike Fiers and this trade might be a little bit slept on by Tigers fans. 1, if you look at Fiers basic stats vs his advanced stats you can tell he is overrated and there was a reason the Astros non-tendered him after the 2017 season. 2, it was clear that there was virtually no interest in Fiers, despite having a year of arbitration with the Tigers state they were going to non-tender him. The Tigers were lucky to even get something out of him being honest. While they did get out of him, the return was minimal. Shore who was considered the main piece has done nothing in the Tigers farm system and at this point, I wouldn’t even consider him a prospect. Blackwood, on the other hand, could be a solid reliever for a couple of years with Detroit. He pitched well in Erie and should get some time in Toledo if there is a season, but likely won’t accumulate a career WAR of even 1.0, overall the saying “better than nothing” really fits this trade.
7/31/2019: Tigers trade Shane Greene to the Braves in exchange for Joey Wentz and Travis Demeritte // Grade: B
The Tigers as bad as they were in 2019 were able to get some trade value for their players which is a good start. The return the Tigers got for Shane Greene is very likable. Joey Wentz the main piece looks great in Erie and with his plus changeup and 3 pitch mix was looking more and more like a legit prospect, but bad news struck as he will be out until mid-2021 as he has to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Wentz, however, is only 22 and still has hope of being something decent. Demeritte is also a likable piece. Demeritte has discipline and power which are the 2 most important things in the modern-day MLB. We were able to get a nice extended look at him in 2019 where he didn’t do much, but an extremely hot spring training, Demeritte comes with some upside and should get some more starts in the 2020 season if there is one. Overall a solid trade by Avila.
7/31/2019: Tigers trade Nicholas Castellanos to the Cubs in exchange for Paul Richan and Alex Lange // Grade: C-
The Tigers were able to get value out of Castellanos after a long build-up to the trade. One thing I question is why didn’t the Tigers trade him in the 2018 deadline when Castellanos was putting up even better numbers than he did 2018. That makes me have to drop the grade as I think the Tigers could’ve gotten much nicer value out of them. The 2 pitchers the Tigers were able to get both could go on to be pretty helpful for the Tigers. Richan has a similar profile to Tyler Alexander except for a little bit better stuff and I think could be a nice 6th or 7th starter or a middle reliever, his command is legit though he doesn’t have major league stuff so I think it’s more likely he ends up as SP depth. Lange is the opposite of Richan as he has very solid stuff but the command is lackluster. Lange has the upside to be a very good middle reliever or even a 7th inning guy. If there is a season, I will definitely be interested in how he performs. Overall this trade isn’t the worst in the world but the Tigers definitely could’ve gotten much better value if they chose better timing.
1/17/2020: Tigers trade Matt Hall to the Red Sox in exchange for Jhon Nunez // Grade: C
The Tigers most recent trade was a small one but one that I wasn’t the fondest of. Hall debuted in 2017 and still had 2 options left and at 26 I thought could still become a solid lefty reliever for a few seasons. One of the biggest weaknesses in the Tigers farm system is that their group of LHP’s are lackluster beyond Tarik Skubal and I thought Hall had a little bit of upside. Nunez was solid in AA last season but he’s 25 and may not even make the MLB. I thought the Tigers should’ve DFA’d someone else when they signed Ivan Nova. Overall though I don’t think this trade will effect the Tigers that much.
To finalize, overall Avila’s made a few very nice trades over the years but has made quite a few bad ones. Arguably the biggest thing that Avila has been critiqued over the years is his skills of trading and I hope this article gives you a better idea of what to expect when you hear the Tigers are shopping someone or rumors. In my opinion, I think that Avila could’ve done better and he’s obviously not the best GM in the league, but I think he gets a little bit more of a bad rep than the deserves. I hope you enjoyed my article and check out my Instagram page @Tigers.news_ for more Tigers content.
Avila’s trade graded (3 trades from 2016 are exceptions):
A trades: 2
B trades: 6
C trades: 6
D trades: 1
F trades: 1
Overall grade: C