Avila lays groundwork at GM Meetings
Tigers set up future talks, look to address rotation, closer, outfield
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Al Avila's first day of meetings as the guy in charge was a busy one. He planned it that way.
With all the Tigers are looking to do this offseason, that's a good thing.
"I've gone through the process as the assistant GM [in past years], so pretty much it's the same thing," Avila said Monday, "except that now obviously the decisions are with you. That is the main difference. But these particular GM Meetings, I would say this is the first time I can ever remember having all these meetings on the first day."
It doesn't mean this week's General Managers Meetings will be anywhere near as eventful as last year, when the Tigers signed Victor Martinez and traded for Anthony Gose. Part of the reason for the early meetings was that Tuesday's schedule will be cluttered with MLB meetings on various matters. Most of Monday's meetings, Avila said, were groundwork for further talks. None of them closed any doors.
What it means is that Avila came in with a game plan, and they're aggressively approaching it. Avila and assistant John Westhoff arrived at the hotel a day early to get a head start. Before they left, they scheduled a series of face-to-face meetings with representatives of several free-agent pitchers, as well as some outfielders.
The closer market is shaping up to be particularly busy. Avila is expected to meet in the next day or two with former Tigers closer Joakim Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez. Detroit has also been linked with interest in free-agent setup man Darren O'Day, who saved 12 games for Baltimore over the last three seasons and is expected to garner interest as a closer. Antonio Bastardo is another free-agent option.
The Tigers are not looking to collect closer candidates, Avila said. They're looking to add somebody who can take over the role.
"We're trying to get a closer. Who that guy is right now, I can't tell you," Avila said. "There might be a guy there that you might not think is a closer but we do, or we might go after a guy that's already been a closer. I don't know where it's going to take me right now."
Despite all the closer talk, starting pitching remains the priority.
"You can have the best closer in the world," Avila said, "but if you don't have your starting pitching in order, you're not going to get to your closer."
The Tigers also are looking at the outfield market, Avila confirmed, either for a full-time left fielder or a right-handed hitter to platoon. How the search for pitching goes is likely to affect how they approach that.
"Certainly the money you spend on one area may affect the other areas," Avila said. "It's like a domino effect, really."
The one Tigers roster move was a subtraction, not an addition. Reliever Guido Knudson was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, reducing Detroit's 40-man roster to 34 players.
Knudson turned a breakthrough season in the Minor Leagues into a callup to his first big league stint. He gave up a home run in each of his first four Major League outings, all in relief, the first reliever to do so since at least 1914 according to STATS. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed five home runs in five innings after giving up just three homers (and just 44 hits overall) over 59 2/3 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. He saved 10 games this year for the Mud Hens and another for the SeaWolves.