Do Detroit and Toronto Match up on the Trade Front?

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It’s no secret that the Blue Jays have an abundance of relievers. Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos are both #ProvenClosers, while Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil appeared in the 2013 All Star game. After those four, the Blue Jays have more than a handful of guys that possess the stuff to be able to dominate out of the bullpen if given the chance. Because of this, Alex Anthopoulos has made it no secret that he is willing to trade a couple of his relievers to improve the ball club this off-season. When it comes to teams that are interested in a closer, the Tigers are front and centre. After falling in the ALCS this season, Detroit’s off-season needs are headed by improving their bullpen. GM Dave Dombrowski talked about this a few days ago at the press conference to introduce new manager Brad Ausmus.

“We’re going to have a closer — we’re going to pursue somebody to pitch at the back-end of the bullpen,”

As most of you I’m sure already know, the Blue Jays biggest needs this off-season include a catcher, a 2nd baseman, and one or two starting pitchers. According to ESPN’s Paul Swydan(Insider needed), Detroit’s biggest hole this winter is at the catcher position. He says the current Tigers catcher, Alex Avila, didn’t cut it this year, and the Tigers must look to bring in a better catcher from the free agent market, like Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

A trade between the Tigers and Blue Jays centred around Alex Avila and one of the Jays high-end relief arms makes all type of sense. Avila might have fallen out of favour in Detroit after failing to live up to expectations he set for himself after putting up 4.6 fWAR in 2011, but he is the perfect fit for Toronto.

He owns a career walk rate of 12.7% in close to 1800 plate appearances,  7% more than J.P Arencbia’s career rate. His wRC+ and wOBA have both shot down since 2011, but a major factor in that is his BABIP regressing to the mean(it was at a ridiculous .366 in 2011) Even so, his 92 wRC+ this year, the worst of his career, is still better than J.P. Arencibia‘s career best of 91 set in 2011.

When it comes to defense, the gap between Arencibia and Avila is a drastic one. As we all know, defensive metrics are risky, especially for catchers.But, if we sway from the metrics, Avila is actually very underrated, as he calls a great game and is also a good receiver. His arm isn’t the best, but at this point, almost all catchers are an upgrade over what we saw J.P. Arencibia do when it comes to throwing out base runners this past year.

Alex Avila has had a couple of down years since having a fluky breakout season in 2011. He will never be the 4 and a half win player he was then, but he still very capable of being worth 2-3 wins above replacement. On the other hand, J.P. Arencibia will probably never reach 2 wins, and is more likely to settle around 1. Toronto has a flooded bullpen, and Alex Anthopoulos should give Dave Dombrowski a call to discuss a Santos-Avila type trade. It might take more than that, but at just 26 years old, and with 2 years left of control, he is a great trade target that AA has to fill one hole without creating another.

Picture courtesy of MatthwJ via Flickr.

  • EightMileCats

    I think the price of Salty and McCann are going to be too high for Detroit. I think Detroit will end up dealing with Avila’s subpar bat due to his excellent game calling and use their limited free cash on other areas of need(2b, LF, BP)

    • Kevin Pearson

      Yea, but Detroit could give James McCann a shot and sign a mid level veteran as an insurance policy. It’s beginning to be do or die time for Detroit acting on a hot shot catching prospect and having him just back up isn’t what most would want. I disagree with the article in Avila being a catcher they would really covet enough to give up a quality arm for.

      • EightMileCats

        It is, but Detroit could sign a couple of the myriad of quality relief arms out there for less than what it’d cost to sign either Salty or McCann. And I don’t think they move a guy who calls a good game and has a solid track record with the staff.

        • Kevin Pearson

          Sure, but no team signs an entire bullpen in one offseason. At best they will get a few good options and maybe a questionable third arm and the Detroit papers will be promoting the team’s eventual idea of calling up some minor league arms like Ortega and Crosby to take the next step.

          Hard to think what they will do with Avila. You’re right it’s hard to move him and he has a good track record with the pitching staff but they have to do something with McCann of substance (maybe trade?) and I can’t believe they are confident in Avila for greater future.

          • EightMileCats

            McCann is still a year away from all accounts here.
            And Detroit has a few interesting arms, just no one ready to close quite yet. Figure they sign/acquire 2 late inning arms and then you can add in Rondon to fill out your 7,8,9 scenario.
            Smyly is in if they don’t move him to the rotation. Putkonen, Ortega, Reed, Alvarez all have MLB experience. Plus guys coming up like Kneble and Mercedes. They could easily fill it out with just a closer and a set up guy to pair with Smyly/Rondon

      • burrwick

        James McCann is not a hotshot prospect and is nowhere near ready to be a catcher on the major league level handling the Tigers crop of quality starters.

  • bob

    Alex Avila’s dad is assistant GM for the Tigers so this deal is not happening. Why do you think they do not have a better catcher?

    • Kevin Pearson

      No professional baseball organization would approach something that way. His calling abilities and the fact Detroit didn’t have better options available is what kept him there.

    • Justin Jay

      I love how everybody is writing off the All Star catcher. Avila ended the year EXTREMELY hot. He missed a lot of time this past season. From Aug.27 through the rest of the season, Avila hit .325 and drove in 23% of his 2013 RBI total during that stretch. He threw out 17% of would be baserunners, which is the lowest of his career. He’s typically around 30% which is one of the better percentages in baseball. He played most of the season hurt. For the guys that are writing him off, you’re crazy!

  • Fullzvision

    They could go for a Ruiz/Pierzynski and make this deal or another… Lots of teams looking for catching help(Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, Blue Jays, Rangers, Red Sox and you can never cut out the Dodgers)… Dombrowski needs to act fast by either by trading/signing for what he wants going forward because in this market, you don’t want to be the last team to move… I’m hoping that’s the Damn Yankees lol


  • bd

    Made up facts in this story. Catching is not the big Tiger problem. Try getting a 2B, improving defense, and deciding on a left fielder.

    • BrettLawriesnewesttattoo

      “Made up facts”? Give him and the hyperbole a break. The kid is 16.

      • Gideon Turk

        17, but that’s irrelevant. I made up no facts. I was quoting a story from ESPN, which clearly states the Tigers biggest problem is the catching situation.

  • burrwick

    A decent starting major league catcher for Santos? A pitcher with a total of 30 innings under his belts in the last 2 seasons. Ahhhh…don’t bother with that call Anthopoulos.

    • Gideon Turk

      “It might take more than that”. Of course it won’t be a straight up 1-1 trade. Nobody was suggesting it would be. But thank you for your comment.

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  • Chris Sherwin

    Avilla had a monster second half despite striking out 30% of the time. He’s battled injuries for the last two years. I don’t think he’s the 4 win player of 2011 but definitely around a 2 win guy. I can’t see the Tigers moving Avilla at all. Replacing him with Salty like Swydan suggests would be a terrible idea imo.

  • Eric Lord

    If the Blue Jays are contacting the Tigers, it should be about Max Scherzer, not Alex Avila. Scherzer is supposively available. He is the ace the Blue Jays lack. I would rather the Blue Jays sign AJ Pierzynski to a short term deal than trade for Avila.

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