MILWAUKEE -- One of the courtesies Al Avila tried to extend when the Tigers embarked on their rebuild last year was to let players know exactly where they stood in the organizational picture. He let Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and others know last summer they were on the trading block, and he told Ian Kinsler at the end of last season that they would try to deal him.
As this season drew near a close, Avila tried to extend the same courtesy to Nicholas Castellanos, who has been rumored on the trading block since last offseason. But as Castellanos nears his final season before free agency, Avila couldn't tell him anything definitive.
"In his case, as we are planning it today, he'll be our right fielder going into 2019," Avila said Saturday as part of his end-of-season remarks. "Things can change over the wintertime. Things can change as we start Spring Training or the season. I don't know, really.
"I already talked to Nick, and I told him, 'Right now, sitting here today, we just have to take it a day at a time and see where it goes.'"
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Avila compared Castellanos' situation to that of J.D. Martinez last year. Castellanos has one more year of arbitration left, and the Tigers will tender him a contract unless they trade him. After that, however, Detroit is at a crossroads.
The Tigers could see what the trade market is like next summer like they did with Martinez. Unlike with Martinez, though, they could let him walk in free agency with the possibility of a compensation pick if they make him a qualifying offer.
A year ago, Detroit was over the luxury-tax threshold and paying into revenue-sharing. As such, the Tigers were looking at a fourth-round compensation pick if they made Martinez a qualifying offer and he signed elsewhere. The team's situation now would give them a much better pick.
"In this case, we are not revenue-sharing payers," Avila said. "We should be receivers at that point, and that'll be a whole different situation."
The Tigers don't have to look far to see the difference that makes. Detroit received a compensation pick at the end of the first round when Max Scherzer left as a free agent following the 2014 season. The Tigers used that pick on Christin Stewart, now their left fielder.
Still open, though not likely, is the option of signing Castellanos to a contract extension.
"It's something we have to figure out: Will he be here when we're ready to contend for the playoffs? That's the big question," Avila said. "If you could tell me in the next couple of years we're going to be a team that's going to the postseason, then it would be easy to answer that and keep Nick around. He's a great hitter.
"But right now, we're trying to assess how that could fit, if that could fit. I even had that conversation with Nick. It's a work in progress right now. I can't say that will happen this winter, though we aren't ruling it out 100 percent. We would still have next year to look at that. That's a question right now that's hard to answer."
Another possibility Avila discussed is moving Castellanos to first base.
"That would not be a bad idea, to see if he can play first base," Avila said. "You would think he played third, so he might be able to play first. That's something the coaching staff and Nick have to come to terms with. At this time, I wouldn't want to put any extra pressure on Nick or the coaching staff to say we have to move Nick at this point. Not going to rule it out 100 percent.
"At the same time, he's made some strides in right field. I think he's getting more comfortable in right field. We have some outfielders coming. We don't have a lot of first basemen coming. It's something we've got to take a look at. But I can't promise anything at this point."