The Detroit Tigers fired longtime general manager Al Avila on Wednesday as the team struggled mightily in a year in which it guaranteed nearly a quarter billion dollars in free funds to bolster its efforts.
Avila, 64, has been with the company for more than two decades, including the last seven years as general manager, after initially serving as deputy general manager.
Born in Cuba, he was the only GM of Hispanic descent in Major League Baseball, a sport whose player population is nearly 30% Hispanic, and was one of only four people of color, along with San Francisco GM Farhan Zaidi, to run a front office . Miami GM Kim Ng and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams.
During Avila’s tenure, the Tigers finished bottom in the American League Central Division four times and currently occupy the basement with a 43-68 record and a -122 run differential, both third-worst in the majors.
“To the Tigers fans, you are the best and deserve a winner,” Avila said in a statement released by the team. “I wish the results could have been better this season but I know there’s a lot to look forward to in the years to come.”
Detroit had hoped to see the promotions of top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, the emergence of young pitchers Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, and the signing of shortstop Javier Baez ($140 million) and starter Eduardo Rodriguez ($77 million). dollars) would see them do so for the first time in a streak of four straight playoff seasons from 2011 to 2014.
Instead, the Tigers were among the most disappointing sides of the game.
“Our progress has certainly stalled this season,” owner Chris Ilitch told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s game against Cleveland. “All of us – the players, the front office and many of you (reporters) – had high expectations and excitement for the season. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any progress at the major league level this season. A big reason why I decided to take the time to make a change.”
Torkelson is back in the minor leagues after struggling in the first three months of the season. Mize will miss the rest of the season after Tommy John’s surgery, Manning has only pitched 20 innings due to injuries and Skubal is on the injured list. Baez is having the worst offensive season of his nine-year major league career and has five years and $120 million left on his contract. And Rodriguez, who left the Tigers in mid-June for personal reasons, is only now beginning a minor-league rehab assignment and is owed $63 million over the next four years.
In 2017, the Tigers traded star pitcher Justin Verlander and All-Star outfielder JD Martinez, but the players the Tigers got in return didn’t help in the majors.
“I didn’t trade those players away,” Ilitch said on Wednesday. “Our general manager did it. Al did it.”
Sam Menzin, an aspiring assistant general manager at Detroit, will handle day-to-day operations until Ilitch selects a replacement for Avila, who is the father of veteran catcher Alex Avila.
Tigers manager AJ Hinch said he will work with Menzin for the remainder of the season but has no interest in also being the team’s general manager.
“We had some momentum last year,” Hinch said. “This year we hit a roadblock.”
Avila has more than three decades of baseball experience. He was Dave Dombrowski’s assistant with the Marlins, whom he helped sign Miguel Cabrera when he was 16. Avila worked as a special assistant with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002 before returning to Detroit to join Dombrowski.
“When 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 said in a statement. “Than loyalty and dedication has served as an example to all during his tenure as head of our division of baseball operations.”
Ilitch said he will oversee the search process for Avila’s replacement.
“I want to restore our momentum and make progress toward building a successful team, and I’m committed to finding a talented leader to help us do that,” said Ilitch. “…With new leadership of baseball’s operations will come a fresh perspective on advancing our roster and maximizing our talent to achieve our goals. To be clear, our goals are to build a team that wins consistently, makes the playoffs, and ultimately wins the World Series.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34380590/al-avila-vice-president-general-manager-detroit-tigers Al Avila fired as vice president, general manager of Detroit Tigers