Avila, J.D. share emotional farewell after trade

Martinez says it 'hurts to leave Detroit' as he joins D-backs

July 18th, 2017

KANSAS CITY -- This time, it was real.
A day after J.D. Martinez spent Monday evening assuring friends and family, including his mother, that he had left the Tigers game against the Royals because of a tight back and not a trade, Martinez really was dealt. It was before Tuesday's night's 9-3 win, not during, but it didn't make it any easier for him.
Martinez was in the training room handing out bananas to teammates in preparation for the heat when manager Brad Ausmus summoned him into the manager's office. Martinez was hoping Ausmus was just checking with him on his back.
"I walked in and [general manager] Al [Avila] was in the room," Martinez said. "And then, you know."
Tigers acquire prospects in deal with D-backs
Al Avila has known Martinez since his childhood, when Martinez played youth ball with his son Alex. Al Avila played a key role in signing Martinez after the Astros released the outfielder near the end of Spring Training in 2014. Now, Avila was the one trading Martinez away, to the D-backs for three prospects -- Double-A third baseman , Class A shortstop Sergio Alcantara and teenage shortstop Jose King. And as they digested the news, Avila said, they cried.
"It was hard," Avila said. "I know it was hard for him. This is his home. This is where he got the opportunity. This is where he became J.D. Martinez. And our relationship was special. So it's very hard to do this."
With that, Martinez's tenure with the Tigers -- a four-year stretch that saw him rise from a Minor League signing to an All-Star and a highly-anticipated free agent -- was over.
"Detroit will always have a special place in my heart," Martinez said. "It just hurts me leaving it. I don't feel like it has really sunk in yet."

And with that, the Tigers' sell-off -- a process that nearly began last offseason and had been anticipated for the last several weeks -- has begun. It won't be much easier for Avila, who will likely have to weigh trade offers for his son along with several other key players now, and many Tigers mainstays later.
"It's not a process that you start last week and you end on July 31 [the non-waiver Trade Deadline]," Avila said. "Basically, the process started last winter, didn't quite take to fruition. We were hoping that we would come into this year, make a good push and really have a winning year. That didn't happen. So at this time, we're looking to score on trades.
"We'll continue to explore trades, and that will continue into the offseason, the wintertime -- and quite frankly, it'll probably continue for the next couple years."
Though the Tigers had time to weigh offers -- the Deadline is nearly two weeks away -- Avilla said the glut of corner outfielders on the trade market led them to trade Martinez now rather than hold out for a better deal and risk getting less. They did not get a top-three prospect from the D-backs, but they settled for three prospects instead.
"We've done our research and homework quite well," Avila said. "Unlike what you might see reported, where you think there's 29 clubs out there knocking the door down, it's not like that. The options are somewhat limited, and you have to go with the teams that really want the guy and are willing to put forth the effort to get them.
"We felt like this, what we have now, we're happy with it. We liked it. To risk going into the last couple days to see if something better developed was really not that important, because the deal we got, we felt was a good deal."

Lugo, 22, who was ranked fourth on MLBPipeline.com's list of D-backs prospects is now No. 11 for the Tigers. A high-dollar amateur signing by the Blue Jays six years ago, Lugo didn't flourish until he went to Arizona in a 2015 trade and moved from shortstop to third base. He batted .282 with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 88 games at Double-A Jackson, and will report to Double-A Erie before likely jumping to Triple-A Toledo next spring.
"We got what we feel is a very good defensive third baseman that can hit," Avila said. "He barrels the ball a lot. We like his swing. We feel he's going to be a real good third baseman at the Major League level.
"We like him a lot. He was the main guy in the package."
Similarly, Alcantara's strength is his defense. The 21-year-old Alcantara, ranked as the Tigers' No. 18 prospect, combines a strong arm with above-average range and reliable hands.
"Very good defensive player, very athletic," Avila said. "He's a switch-hitter that we feel is going to hit enough to be an everyday shortstop at the Major League level."
The mystery, and potentially the key in how this deal is eventually seen, is King, an 18-year-old in the Arizona Rookie League. The Tigers knew him from when he was an amateur free agent, and consulted with international scouting director Tom Moore as well as top Tigers scout Mike Russell, who worked for the D-backs for two years before returning to Detroit last fall.

"The reason we went that route is we feel he has really high upside," Avila said. "Toolsy kid, very hard kid, tremendous makeup. We had some good inside information, we felt, on him, so it's a little bit more risk, high reward."
It's the type of package the Tigers were willing to take on a player with two months control. Unlike previous years, when the Tigers could've made Martinez a qualifying offer in the winter and received a compensation pick in the early rounds if he signed elsewhere, the Tigers were looking at a compensation pick after the fourth round for Martinez under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
At the same time, they were dealing with teams who could weigh Martinez's availability against other corner outfielders like , , , and potentially .
No other team was close to outbidding the D-backs.
"In today's market, clubs are really hesitant to give up their good young players," Avila said. "And even big-market clubs are hesitant to give up their young players, because right now, everybody's looking at the luxury tax. And if you're going to be under the luxury tax, you're going to need to eventually move some money and bring up some good young players. If you don't have any to bring up, it really makes it tough."
Expect more debates like this, more evaluations in the coming days as the Tigers weigh offers on Alex Avila and . Asked if any other deal was imminent, Avila didn't rule it out.
"We're still in conversation with other clubs on several players," he said. "So we'll just have to take it a day at a time."