Tigers' Venezuelan summer team shut down

With not enough clubs, VSL postponed for season; Detroit's academy there stays open

January 25th, 2016

DETROIT -- The Tigers have enjoyed a scouting and developmental strength in Venezuela as one of the few Major League teams left with both an academy in the country and a team in the Venezuelan Summer League. They'll still have the academy, but the VSL is done, postponed for the upcoming season. The Cubs reportedly are pulling their club, which would have left just three teams.

The decision did not catch the Tigers by surprise, given the situation in Venezuela.

"It is disappointing, because it was a good league and it served a real important purpose," general manager Al Avila said Saturday at TigerFest. "But because of the political situation, a lot of teams have moved out. You can't have a league with only two or three teams. A lot of teams have a second team in the Dominican Republic with the Dominican Summer League. We're looking more into adding a team in the [Florida] Gulf Coast League."

Developmentally, the GCL is a step up from both the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues, so it's not necessarily an even exchange. Experienced pro players who would have been in line for the DSL will more likely get a promotion to the GCL, leaving younger players in the Dominican. The Tigers have an academy in the Dominican, but it may not be big enough to accommodate two teams.

The Venezuelan academy will remain in place, Avila said. The Tigers will continue to field a team there for the Parallel League, essentially the Minor Leagues for the Venezuelan Winter League.

"It wasn't a tough call to keep [the academy] open," Avila said. "We knew that this was probably coming down the road, and we planned to keep it open. It's a necessity for us."

The Tigers started their affiliation with the VSL in 2006, and they had several players there over the years turn into big leaguers. Eugenio Suarez played in the VSL from 2009-10 on his way to the Majors before going to the Reds in the Alfredo Simon trade. Bruce Rondon played there from 2008-09. Avisail Garcia began his pro career there in '08.