On Aug. 4, 2015, Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch fired general manager Dave Dombrowski and promoted Al Avila.
Nearly seven years and a week to the day, Ilitch’s son, Christopher, relieved Avila of his duties.
Here’s a look back at the whys and hows behind the 404-573 (.414) record during his time running the organization.
Avila inherited a team on the backend of the franchise’s most fruitful winning run in generations. But, it was a roster with aging, banged-up superstars (Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera) and not many prospects to speak of.
And his manager, Brad Ausmus, was chided for how he handled the team. Ausmus was eventually let go after 2017; the former Tigers All-Star led the team to two last-place finishes in his four seasons. Avila hired Ron Gardenhire to steer the team through the start of a rebuild filled with losses. No true superstars emerged under his watch, and Gardenhire announced his retirement near the end of the 2020 season.
On the night after the 2020 World Series ended, Avila reached out to AJ Hinch, who was suspended that season for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. The Tigers hired Hinch, a move widely applauded. But after a third-place finish in 2021, the Tigers have spent all of this season as one of the worst teams in baseball.
As for free agents on the field, it’s hard to regard one as a smash hit. In 2016, Francisco Rodriguez was good before e flamed out the following year. But Justin Upton, Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe and Jordan Zimmermann were largely flops. And this season’s big gets, Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez, have left much to be desired.
One of the quickest ways to jumpstart a rebuild is to turn your big-money players into prospects that can fuel the future.
The Tigers were seemingly loaded with the former. But they have yet to replace those players with the latter.
The Tigers seemed uninterested to spend big during Avila’s tenure, so he was tasked with trading away All-Stars like Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Shane Greene and eventual All-Star Nick Castellanos.
But the return on those guys has been futile: Franklin Perez, Jake Rogers, Daz Cameron, Dawel Lugo, Wilkel Hernandez, Troy Montgomery, Travis Demeritte, Joey Wentz, Alex Lange and Paul Richan. Of that group, only Lange can be considered a consistent contributor to the major league team, and that has only come this season.
The other way to make a rebuild happen is through the prospects drafted. Here’s a look at the first-round picks Avila has made:
2016: Matt Manning
2017: Alex Faedo
2018: Casey Mize
2019: Riley Greene
2020: Spencer Torkelson
2021: Jackson Jobe
2022: Jace Jung
Manning, Faedo and Mize are trying to establish themselves as major leagues and all three have battled injuries this season. Greene, whose major league career began in the middle of this season, has flashed but also struggled, as many rookies do. Though, Torkelson, the top pick in 2020, struggled so much he’s since been sent to Triple-A. Jobe was a high schooler last year.
Since 2016, the Tigers “developed” two All-Stars: Joe Jimenez in 2018 and Gregory Soto in 2021-22. It’s perhaps the biggest reason the Tigers are staring at their fourth last-place finish since 2017 and are well, primed for a rebuild.
Contact Kirkland Crawford: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers fire GM Al Avila: A recap of disappointing tenure