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Well-rounded Avila defined by formative years

MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Long before Al Avila ever dreamed of becoming a Major League general manager, he was an assistant baseball coach at tiny St. Thomas University in Miami. He was working under Paul Mainieri, who went on to earn national honors coaching at Notre Dame and LSU, and he was completing his education in one of the nation's few sports administration programs at the time.

At first, the job was a volunteer position. After Avila graduated and spent a brief stint as a Minor League GM, he returned to St. Thomas and became a paid assistant coach, but had to wear a few more hats, helping coach the women's cross-country and tennis teams.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Long before Al Avila ever dreamed of becoming a Major League general manager, he was an assistant baseball coach at tiny St. Thomas University in Miami. He was working under Paul Mainieri, who went on to earn national honors coaching at Notre Dame and LSU, and he was completing his education in one of the nation's few sports administration programs at the time.

At first, the job was a volunteer position. After Avila graduated and spent a brief stint as a Minor League GM, he returned to St. Thomas and became a paid assistant coach, but had to wear a few more hats, helping coach the women's cross-country and tennis teams.

"Those three jobs allowed the $18,000 salary," Avila said with a chuckle, "not to mention [being] the field manager and all that stuff. That was kind of the start."

In a sport where GMs are trending younger and front offices are increasingly filled with Ivy League graduates, Avila is an exception. His journey to Tigers GM took nearly three decades, but as he spoke Monday to a group of aspiring young Latino professionals pursuing careers in baseball at the Winter Meetings, he told them not to be so preoccupied with the destination job that they miss the value of the journey.

"No matter if you want to go through one path, if life takes you somewhere different, you use that to your gain," Avila said, "because it's going to help you along the way somewhere else. That's what happened to me, working in the Minor Leagues as a general manager, working with women's sports and trying to pursue your baseball career. It all helped put together enough experience."

Though Avila's family name is baseball royalty -- his father Ralph pioneered player development in the Dominican Republic -- Al Avila had to forge his own path. He was in his 30s when he finally broke into a Major League front office with the upstart Florida Marlins. He had succeeded Mainieri as head coach at St. Thomas, added athletic director to his duties, managed a foundation for Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula to provide scholarships for deserving students at St. Thomas, and worked with Team USA to form and manage a team against national squads from Central America in a tournament in Nicaragua.

The administrative work, as well as his work coaching women's cross-country and tennis, helped him learn how to budget. The work with Shula's foundation helped forge connections that led to then-Marlins and Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. The international work opened the door for a Latin American operations job with the Marlins in 1992.

"Those connections helped me quite a bit," Avila said. "But one of the things that helped me the most was [as a student] at the university, one of my big assignments was to start a brand new franchise in baseball. It was a semester-long project, and I really went all out to the point where it really helped me in the interview process when the Marlins were an expansion franchise."

Avila received a B for the project, he said, but he aced the interview. A quarter-century later, that experience still helps him today. Yet as the industry evolves, Avila said, the learning process goes on.

"That's the name of the game: You have to be able to make adjustments and learn," Avila said. "You always have to keep on learning new things. You can't just say, 'This is the way we've always done it.' You have to keep up with what's happening and evolve with the times, and you have to learn a new way of doing things."

That led to Avila's embrace of analytics once he took over as Tigers GM in 2015. They're still catching up with other organizations, but they're rapidly expanding. At the same time, Avila has expanded and evolved the Tigers' scouting department, adding personnel while shifting experienced scouts to areas where he feels they can be most productive.

"Latin America is kind of one of the last frontiers where a pure scout, a talent evaluator, can still make an impact on your organization," Avila said. "The players are 16, 17 years old. There's not a history with them. From an analytics point of view, it's really hard to have an opinion. You don't have [tools] to figure out spin rates. You have to make sure you have talented scouts there."

Avila said he wants an analytics department that can compete with the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees. Yet he also wants a scout's opinion.

"You need to work with both sides in order to have a successful organization," he said.

That's the value of a well-rounded background. But for Avila, currently MLB's lone Latino GM, it wasn't an end goal.

"When I started in baseball, I never really wanted to be a general manager," Avila said. "I never set out to be a general manager. All I wanted to do was basically work in baseball. And quite frankly, at the beginning of my career, I enjoyed the coaching part. These are things that just kind of evolved for me.

"In today's world, everybody says, 'Map out your plan, step by step, a five-year or 10-year plan.' What I did was: Where I was that day, I tried to do the best job I could so that whenever I left there, they could say, 'That guy was really good.'"

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Trammell, Morris relish being teammates again

Hall of Famers spent 14 years together with Tigers
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were Tigers' Draft picks in the same year, a few rounds apart in 1976. They both arrived in the big leagues a year later and spent the next 14 seasons as teammates in Detroit.

On Monday, they were wearing the same jersey once more. This time, it was the red and white jerseys the Hall of Fame gives to inductees to put on during their introductory press conference. And as they put their arms through the sleeves, fitting them over the attire they wore to the Winter Meetings, the gravity of Sunday's news was sinking in.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were Tigers' Draft picks in the same year, a few rounds apart in 1976. They both arrived in the big leagues a year later and spent the next 14 seasons as teammates in Detroit.

On Monday, they were wearing the same jersey once more. This time, it was the red and white jerseys the Hall of Fame gives to inductees to put on during their introductory press conference. And as they put their arms through the sleeves, fitting them over the attire they wore to the Winter Meetings, the gravity of Sunday's news was sinking in.

• Morris, Trammell elected to Hall of Fame

"How's it look, buddy?" Trammell asked, turning to Morris.

"Makes you look good," Morris answered.

It was a good fit -- not just the jerseys, but the historic significance of Morris and Trammell entering Cooperstown together. The pair was part of the Tigers' last World Series championship team, in 1984, the same year that two teammates went into the Hall of Fame wearing the same cap on their plaque. Baseball writers voted in Don Drysdale that year, his 10th on the ballot. That same year, the Veterans Committee voted in Drysdale's Dodgers teammate, Pee Wee Reese.

Video: Trammell, Morris' numbers to be retired by Tigers

Though Braves rotation mates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine went into the Hall of Fame together in 2014, only Glavine went in as a Brave. Maddux, whose career began with the Cubs, went in with a blank cap on his plaque.

• Castrovince: Sweet result for Tigers' teammates

As Trammell and Morris spoke together with reporters, they played off each other like they were still teammates. While Morris was emotional, at times fighting back tears as he spoke about the long wait to get in, Trammell couldn't stop smiling.

"I've prided myself for years of being prepared, and that was kind of my style of how I played, but I find myself with my mind drifting constantly," Trammell said of his mentality since Sunday. "I'm trying to stay on task, and I'm having a very difficult time doing it. I'm going to be honest. I feel a little bit out of place.

"The Hall of Fame, that's got a great ring to it. But when I hear 'Alan Trammell, Hall of Fame,' it hasn't resonated yet, and I'm just speaking from the heart."

Video: Morris, Trammell on election to Hall of Fame

Those emotions might be more similar as they sit down and prepare their speeches, the magnitude finally sets in for Trammell, and the task at hand becomes more imperative for Morris. But for this day, their personalities on the dais at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort reflected a little bit of their personalities as teammates -- Morris the fiery competitor, Trammell the kid at heart.

"After failing on the writers ballot, reality sinks in. For me, it was a wonderful learning time because I had to remind myself of how much I am grateful for without the Hall of Fame," Morris said. "And then you get this wonderful news from your peers, and it happens, and Tram and I are both having a tough time grasping that right now. But it's more for the people that were in my corner than me, myself, right now. I think, had I made it on the first ballot, I wouldn't have that same feeling. So I'm grateful for the time, because it has taught me a lot."

One of the people who had been in both of their corners is no longer with them, though he's also in the Hall. Until now, Sparky Anderson was the only member of the 1984 Tigers enshrined in Cooperstown, in his case as a manager. Both Trammell and Morris were thinking of Anderson and his teachings as they thought about their careers that led them down this path.

"As young athletes, we thought we were good, and we thought we knew what we were doing," Trammell said. "And little did we know, we didn't know squat. We really didn't. And he was the man that got us over the hump."

Video: Morris, Trammell on Anderson's influence

They had different relationships with Anderson, as Morris acknowledged, but he got the most out of them.

"Sparky made me a ballplayer, whether I liked it or not," Morris said. "We were unhealthily too close. He wasn't my manager. He was my older brother, my dad, and I love both of them. … I loved Sparky, but I wanted to hug him and kick him in the butt at the same time almost every day.

"What I can tell you is he brought out the best in both of us, and not only us, but our teams. There's a crazy, insane way he did it. It defies all logic. It doesn't fall into any analytic. But he knew what he was doing, and I love the man, will forever. Wish he was here to celebrate with us."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Morris, Trammell honored by calls to the Hall!

Former teammates elected to class of 2018 by Modern Era Committee
MLB.com @castrovince

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- What could wind up becoming a loaded 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class begins with a 1984 Tigers two-fer that ends two long and agonizing waits for Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

Morris, the hero of the Twins' Game 7 triumph in the 1991 World Series and winner of 254 regular-season games in his 18 seasons, and Trammell, the four-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the '84 Fall Classic, were teammates on the last Tigers team to win it all, and they will be joyously joined again in Cooperstown next summer. In the first big news from baseball's Winter Meetings this week, Morris was named on 14 and Trammell on 13 of the 16 ballots cast by the Hall's Modern Baseball Era Committee on Sunday. A candidate had to appear on at least 75 percent of ballots to gain entry.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- What could wind up becoming a loaded 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class begins with a 1984 Tigers two-fer that ends two long and agonizing waits for Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

Morris, the hero of the Twins' Game 7 triumph in the 1991 World Series and winner of 254 regular-season games in his 18 seasons, and Trammell, the four-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the '84 Fall Classic, were teammates on the last Tigers team to win it all, and they will be joyously joined again in Cooperstown next summer. In the first big news from baseball's Winter Meetings this week, Morris was named on 14 and Trammell on 13 of the 16 ballots cast by the Hall's Modern Baseball Era Committee on Sunday. A candidate had to appear on at least 75 percent of ballots to gain entry.

"I've got to believe, in a crazy sort of way, that this is the sweetest way to go in," Morris said. "To go in with a guy who meant so much to me and, in my opinion, was overlooked."

Video: Morris, Trammell elected to the Hall of Fame

Trammell and Morris were among 10 candidates on the Modern Era ballot, which includes those whose most significant career impact was realized between 1970-87. They became the first living players to be elected into the Hall by a small committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.

"Overwhelmed," Trammell said. "My mind is a whirlwind. I thought that Jack was well-deserving and in my opinion should've been in a few years ago. But nevertheless, it's an honor to go in with Jack and whoever is inducted from the writers' ballot. It's going to be a great class. I'm honored to be a part of it."

Tweet from @beckjason: Tigers statement from Chris Ilitch says they'll retire 3 and 47 in August. https://t.co/2YUiWFeJl0

The Baseball Writers' Association of America is in the process of compiling ballots for its 2018 class, which will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 on MLB Network. With both Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero having appeared on north of 70 percent of ballots last year, and with first-time candidates Chipper Jones and Jim Thome among those with particularly compelling Cooperstown cases, this could be a grand group going in together July 29.

Hall of Fame inductees, year by year

It is the inherent goal of the smaller Hall voting committees, which were revamped from the former Veterans Committee process in 2016, to give added consideration to those whose careers and impact might not have been given their just due on the BBWAA ballot. Both Morris and Trammell spent a full 15 years on the BBWAA ballot (the cutoff has since been amended to 10 years) without getting in. Trammell's highest vote percentage had been 40.9 in his final year of eligibility in 2016, while Morris maxed out at 67.7 percent in his second-to-last year of eligibility in 2013.

The reward for both men finally arrived in their first year of consideration by a smaller committee.

Video: Morris selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

"You appreciate it so much," Morris said. "I think I have a better understanding of what it all means now than I ever would have on the first ballot. I know the emotions some of those guys are going through who didn't make it. I thought every guy had a legitimate chance. They had reasons to be considered, for sure. I hope there's no animosity because I made it, because I certainly was pulling for them."

With 12 votes required for entry, former catcher Ted Simmons received 11 votes, former MLB Players Association leader Marvin Miller received seven and Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Luis Tiant each received fewer than seven votes (the Hall did not reveal their exact tallies).

The 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee was comprised of Hall of Fame members George Brett, Rod Carew, Bobby Cox, Dennis Eckersley, John Schuerholz, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount; Major League executives Sandy Alderson, Paul Beeston, Bob Castellini, Bill DeWitt and David Glass; and veteran historians Bob Elliott, Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark.

Video: Trammell selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

"To have the Hall of Famers during our era vote for us is very meaningful," Trammell said. "It means a lot. It's very humbling."

Trammell played all 20 of his MLB seasons with the Tigers, from 1977-96, including the first 14 seasons of his career as a teammate of Morris. In the '84 World Series against the Padres, he hit .450 (9-for-20) with a double and two home runs to earn MVP honors. He also hit .364 and homered in that year's American League Championship Series against the Royals.

Video: Trammell excited to be elected to the Hall of Fame

"[A scout once told me] if you play good defense and you hit .250," Trammell said, "you'll play in the big leagues for a long time."

Morris pitched for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians from 1977-94. He threw a no-hitter during that aforementioned '84 season, shutting down the White Sox on April 7 at Comiskey Park. In his epic Game 7 performance in 1991, he outdueled the Braves' John Smoltz, a 2015 Hall of Fame entrant, over 10 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win that clinched the Twins' second World Series title in four years.

"There's no question it's one of my defining moments in baseball, because it was the only Game 7 that I pitched," Morris said. "I knew the importance of it, but I was also at the apex of my career both mentally and physically. I've never pitched a game where I had better focus, and I don't know why. I had the best mindset I've had in my entire career."

Video: Morris on his initial reaction to HOF selection

The Hall cases for both Morris and Trammell have generated plenty of discussion over the years. Interestingly, Trammell was a darling of the advanced analytical community, while Morris' credentials were often touted by those with more of an "old school" bent. Trammell had a career Wins Above Replacement mark of 70.4 (as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com), just behind that of likely Hall of Famer Derek Jeter (71.8) and just ahead of that of Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Bobby Wallace (70.2). Morris' 44.1 career WAR pales in comparison to that of the average Hall of Famer, but his lofty win total, 175 career complete games and Game 7 gem were his strongest selling points.

After all the debates and deliberations, Morris and Trammell go in together. Teammates then and classmates now.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bid on chance to join McCann for lunch, more

Auction proceeds benefit Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- James McCann has made a living guarding the plate at Comerica Park for the last three seasons. Now he's offering a chance to share a plate with him at the lunch table for a good cause.

The Tigers are auctioning off a chance to eat lunch with McCann and other unforgettable fan experiences as part of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings charity auction, which runs until Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. All 30 big league clubs are offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unique items to benefit a special cause close to the game.

DETROIT -- James McCann has made a living guarding the plate at Comerica Park for the last three seasons. Now he's offering a chance to share a plate with him at the lunch table for a good cause.

The Tigers are auctioning off a chance to eat lunch with McCann and other unforgettable fan experiences as part of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings charity auction, which runs until Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. All 30 big league clubs are offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unique items to benefit a special cause close to the game.

Proceeds from this year's auction will support the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, set up in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career in the game spanned 40 years.

In addition to lunch with McCann, the winning bidder will receive four tickets to a game, four passes for pregame batting practice and parking in the Tigers garage.

Other items up for auction include:

• A ticket package with an opportunity to meet a Tigers player.

• A chance to meet a Tigers player on the field during batting practice as well as tickets and parking passes.

• An opportunity to be up close for the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1968 World Series championship team. The winning bidder will receive four tickets to the 1968 World Series team luncheon, four tickets to the Sept. 7 game against the Cardinals, batting practice and parking passes, and a meet-and-greet opportunity with a representative from the 1968 squad. Autographed copies of Al Kaline and Willie Horton books and baseballs are included, along with a complete set of 1968 Legends bobbleheads.

Bidding is live at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction. The proceeds will help support an annual scholarship that will be awarded to a female student at the University of San Francisco who most exemplifies the character of Feeney, whose devotion to helping others and passion for the game of baseball inspired many from her position with the National League and later the Office of the Commissioner.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Path shared by Morris, Trammell has sweet result

Modern Era Committee votes former Tigers teammates into Hall
MLB.com @castrovince

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Before the phone calls that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell had waited a baseball lifetime to receive, there was a closed room, a rectangular table and 16 men discussing, deliberating, debating and after somewhere in the neighborhood of six hours, deciding how to cast their votes in the Baseball Hall of Fame's Modern Era ballot.

The end result of the process, as announced Sunday night and celebrated at a Monday morning news conference at the start of the Winter Meetings, was Morris and Trammell getting what some would say was their long-overdue call to the Hall. But the process is as interesting as the end result. It reveals to us the stark discrepancy that can exist in the perspectives between external observers and between-the-lines insiders as to which players dominated their respective eras, and it demonstrates that the heated discussions over who is worthy of Hall of Fame acclaim extend to the Hall of Famers themselves.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Before the phone calls that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell had waited a baseball lifetime to receive, there was a closed room, a rectangular table and 16 men discussing, deliberating, debating and after somewhere in the neighborhood of six hours, deciding how to cast their votes in the Baseball Hall of Fame's Modern Era ballot.

The end result of the process, as announced Sunday night and celebrated at a Monday morning news conference at the start of the Winter Meetings, was Morris and Trammell getting what some would say was their long-overdue call to the Hall. But the process is as interesting as the end result. It reveals to us the stark discrepancy that can exist in the perspectives between external observers and between-the-lines insiders as to which players dominated their respective eras, and it demonstrates that the heated discussions over who is worthy of Hall of Fame acclaim extend to the Hall of Famers themselves.

"Holy cow," said George Brett, one of the 16 Modern Era committee members this year. "You start comparing them, and then you get people speaking on their behalf and then you've got people bad-mouthing them. I mean, it was pretty heated discussions on everybody. Then it's a secret ballot, and you write down zero to four names."

Hall of Fame inductees, year by year

Brett and fellow Hall members Rod Carew, Bobby Cox, Dennis Eckersley, John Schuerholz, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount were on the voting board, as were Major League executives Sandy Alderson, Paul Beeston, Bob Castellini, Bill DeWitt and David Glass and veteran historians Bob Elliott, Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark. The 10-person ballot featured Trammell, Morris, Ted Simmons, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Luis Tiant and former MLB Players' Association leader Marvin Miller, and as Brett said, the committee members were limited to four votes. To get in, a candidate needed to appear on at least 12 of 16 ballots (Morris appeared on 14, Trammell 13).

Yount looked at his ballot after the lengthy discourse and felt overwhelmed by the assignment.

"That," Yount said, "was more difficult than anything I had ever imagined when I was asked to be one of the committee members."

Yount and Brett both became first-ballot Hall of Famers in 1999. They didn't have to have their Cooperstown cases put through the wringer of spending 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, as Morris and Trammell did. Morris and Trammell don't simply share a history as 1976 Detroit Draft picks turned 1984 World Series champs and 2018 Hall entrants.

Video: Morris, Trammell introduced at HOF press conference

The fact that they were rewarded by their baseball peers only added to the appeal of the outcome.

"I have to thank this group of people that voted for us," said Morris, "and it is somewhat more gratifying knowing that the guys that I tried to get out and the people that I competed against and the guys that worked the front office and made decisions are the people that helped us be here today. It's wonderful."

Added Trammell: "I think it's even better [than getting voted in by the writers]."

Video: Trammell on being elected to HOF on High Heat

Trammell never appeared on more than 40.9 percent of BBWAA ballots. His case had strong support from sabermetricians but grassroots efforts to get him elected never gained traction. Morris, on the other hand, made it as high at 67.7 percent, ultimately losing a sort of culture war between the advanced analytics that pooh-poohed his place among Hall of Fame pitchers and more traditional numbers like wins and complete games that celebrated his standing.

Morris said he never really understood why his career would be judged by statistical criteria that didn't even exist when he was playing, but he ultimately learned to find peace with the process. He said he never begrudged the writers their opinion or their vote.

"Now that I'm in," he said with a laugh, "I don't have to worry about that anymore."

Video: Trammell, Morris' numbers to be retired by Tigers

Some peers were puzzled to see Morris and Trammell left on the outside looking in for those 15 years, and their voices were heard via the Modern Baseball Era Committee, which considers the cases of those whose greatest impact was realized between 1970-87 and was created as part of the re-imagination of the former Veterans Committee process in 2016. One of the interesting wrinkles of the result was that Simmons, a catcher who spent 21 seasons with the Cardinals, Brewers and Braves, fell just one vote shy of election by the Modern Era Committee after dropping off the BBWAA ballot with just 3.7 percent support in his first and only year.

"I know how good a player he was," said Yount, "and something went completely wrong in the baseball writer voting."

That is the goal of the smaller committees -- to right potential wrongs from the BBWAA part of the process. And to be a fly on the wall in the room, with each member of the committee fighting for his guy.

"I learned an awful lot about the game of baseball," Brett said.

When the end result was discussed Monday, Trammell said was still in a daze of wonder and Morris continually got choked up about the topic.

"That's not the guy I remember on the mound snorting and sniffing and out for blood," Yount said. "He has a soft side."

Video: Morris, Trammell on Anderson's influence

The peers who had helped Morris and Trammell get in admitted to getting choked up, too, because, as Hall of Famers themselves, they know all about the emotion of entry into one of sports' most hallowed clubs. And as voting committee members, they took part in the fascinating process that had made it all happen.

"It really was a fun process," Brett said. "It was really kind of cool to be able to determine someone's fate."

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tigers duo proud to represent '84 team in HOF

Trammell, Morris selected by Modern Era Committee, were members of Detroit's last World Series winner
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell was in Detroit last weekend, co-hosting a baseball camp for kids inside the gym at Wayne State University, when the staff played a video showing Trammell's highlights from the 1984 World Series. They were meant to give campers a glimpse of what their instructor accomplished in his career, but they also served to jog Trammell's memory.

"I have not sat down and watched a full game of the World Series," Trammell said. "I have those tapes, but this is going to date myself: They're all VHS. But they were running those [at the camp], and I kept glancing up there, because there were things happenings that I'd almost forgotten. I caught myself looking up there quite a bit."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell was in Detroit last weekend, co-hosting a baseball camp for kids inside the gym at Wayne State University, when the staff played a video showing Trammell's highlights from the 1984 World Series. They were meant to give campers a glimpse of what their instructor accomplished in his career, but they also served to jog Trammell's memory.

"I have not sat down and watched a full game of the World Series," Trammell said. "I have those tapes, but this is going to date myself: They're all VHS. But they were running those [at the camp], and I kept glancing up there, because there were things happenings that I'd almost forgotten. I caught myself looking up there quite a bit."

Video: Trammell selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

Now that two members of that squad, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, are about to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, having been selected by the Modern Era Committee, generations of fans -- some of whom weren't alive for that magical run -- are about to learn a lot about that club and how dominant of a season it had.

Until now, the only member of that team in the Hall of Fame has been its manager, Sparky Anderson. The fact that no player had been inducted has been a sore spot for years for many Tigers fans. For them, Sunday was a validation, an acknowledgment that a team that went 35-5 to begin the season, won 104 games and led its division wire to wire had Hall of Fame players.

Trammell, Morris enter Hall of Fame

It wasn't just a great season, but a great team. Morris and Trammell had better individual seasons in other years, including 1983, but never on more successful clubs.

"It certainly gives me a sense of pride," Morris said. "I know that Tiger fans have been loyal ever since that year. I think a lot of people in Michigan always wondered why a team that was so good and so dominant never had someone to represent them in the Hall of Fame. And so I'm proud that Alan made it and I made it together. I can't think of a better scenario than to go in with a former teammate that I love and respect so much.

Video: Morris selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

"I know it's got to be a great day, a warm and fuzzy day for Tiger fans, because the tradition of Tiger baseball is finally recognized."

It won't just be a great day for fans of that team. For other members of that club, it's an honor long overdue.

"From the '84 perspective, yeah, it's nice to have a couple guys from that team represent us in the Hall of Fame," Lance Parrish said. "Maybe it'll give us a little more credibility, although I think the record speaks for itself."

Morris was an 18-game winner on that team, and a critical part of that team's historic start. Not only did he throw a no-hitter on April 7 of that year, he went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six starts, four of them complete games. He was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA at the end of May, and finished 19-11 with a 3.60 ERA that year. He won all three of his postseason starts, pitching two complete-game victories in the World Series.

Video: DET@CWS: Morris no-hits the White Sox

Trammell tore through the season's opening month and owned a .407 batting average on May 1. He ended up batting .314 that year with 34 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBIs in 139 games. He was an All-Star selection and American League Gold Glove Award winner that year, but his saved his bigger contribution for that World Series, batting 9-for-20 with two homers and six RBIs in the five-game series against the Padres to earn series MVP.

Video: WS1984 Gm4: Trammell hits two homers in Game 4

"It is special to have two of those guys from that '84 team, and even in that era," said Tom Brookens, an infielder on that club. "We had a lot of good teams other than that '84 team, but that one sticks out because we won the championship. Those guys were mainstays and reasons why we were successful."

Though Brookens said they didn't need a Hall of Famer to validate the success itself, the fact that a championship club did not have one Hall of Famer was an historic oddity. Trammell and Morris exhausted their eligibility on the BBWAA ballot without receiving the 75-percent vote needed for induction. Others, like Kirk Gibson and Lou Whitaker, didn't even receive the five-percent vote required to stay on the ballot and were off after one year.

Whitaker was considered for the 10-person Modern Era ballot, but the longtime Tigers second baseman did not receive the necessary votes from the Historical Overview Committee to make it, dashing Trammell's hopes to be inducted with his double-play partner of 19 seasons.

"Jack and I are going in to represent our era. I think Lou, hopefully in some time, will," Trammell said. "That'll put a big smile on my face."

To many, any recognition for the Tigers of that era was long overdue. The fact that it came from a committee that included several Hall of Famers who played against that 1984 squad meant even more.

"Trust me, I've thought about that for a long time," Morris said. "I thought about that while I was still on the writers' ballot. And there is some real warmth there that those guys were on the field against me [voted], more so than young writers who never saw me."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Teammates, colleagues react to Hall call for duo

Trammell, Morris enjoy first-class reception upon Hall of Fame election
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell boarded his flight from San Diego to Orlando, Fla., for baseball's Winter Meetings on Sunday as a passenger in coach. His arrival was first class.

As Trammell waited to deplane, he received the call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame that he and longtime teammate Jack Morris had been inducted by the Modern Era Committee. When he arrived at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort, ready to go to work as Tigers special assistant, he received an ovation from the Tigers' contingent.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell boarded his flight from San Diego to Orlando, Fla., for baseball's Winter Meetings on Sunday as a passenger in coach. His arrival was first class.

As Trammell waited to deplane, he received the call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame that he and longtime teammate Jack Morris had been inducted by the Modern Era Committee. When he arrived at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort, ready to go to work as Tigers special assistant, he received an ovation from the Tigers' contingent.

Tweet from @JBASPORTS: We were lucky to be next to our guy, Tram, when he received news on making the NBHOF!!! Congrats Tram, you deserve it!!! ������ pic.twitter.com/17eYWBXUze

"All of us in the Tigers baseball operations department congratulate Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on the result of today's election," general manager Al Avila said in a statement. "I can't think of any two players more deserving of this honor than Tram and Jack. These two Tigers greats played an integral role on the 1984 World Series championship team. We're extremely proud to have both of these great baseball men still representing the Olde English 'D'."

Video: Justice on Morris, Trammell's election to HOF

Avila and the Tigers' front office weren't the only ones applauding.

"I'll tell you what, it's amazing," former Tiger Tom Brookens said. "Honestly, I'm a little bit shocked that they both got in together like that, but I couldn't be happier for two guys that are so deserving of it. I'm so happy for them. I thought Jack should've been in before, and certainly Tram. He's one of my best friends."

From former teammates to current colleagues to Tigers ownership, the long-awaited induction for Morris and Trammell was an organizational honor, a joy for virtually everyone associated with the Tigers. They'll be the first players inducted wearing the Olde English "D" since Hal Newhouser was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1992.

Video: Trammell excited to be elected to the Hall of Fame

"On behalf of the entire Detroit Tigers organization, it's an honor to congratulate Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Ilitch Holdings President and CEO Chris Ilitch said in a statement. "This announcement is truly a proud moment for all of us, and for the legions of Tigers fans who watched these all-time greats excel during their years wearing the Olde English 'D'. Their achievements on the field, and character off, exemplify what's best about the sport of baseball -- and I'm thrilled the Modern Era Committee saw fit to enshrine Tram and Jack in Cooperstown.

"All of us with the Tigers are looking forward to August, when we will be honoring these legends by retiring their numbers at Comerica Park."

Video: Morris, Trammell selected to join Hall of Fame

No Tiger has worn Morris' No. 47 since Morris' final season in Detroit in 1990. Current Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler has worn Trammell's No. 3 since he arrived in Detroit in 2014. No decision has been made by the Tigers or Kinsler about how they'll handle his number before it's retired, though that decision could be rendered moot if Kinsler is traded this offseason.

Tweet from @23KGibby: Congratulations Tram and Jack, in the Hall Of Fame where you belong! @tigers @MLBNetwork

From Al Kaline to Kirk Gibson to Michael Fulmer, the reaction to the inductions spanned generations of Tigers. Some, like Gibson, Brookens and Lance Parrish, knew Trammell as a teammate.

Parrish has been a friend of Trammell and Morris since their years as teammates, and has argued the case for Trammell and Morris since their years on the BBWAA ballot. To see their merits finally recognized was rewarding for him.

"I'm going to have to get used to both of them being Hall of Famers now. I don't know if I'm going to have to bow to them or not," Parrish joked. "It's just a special time in their life being recognized with the ultimate honor. I think all of us who played any length with Jack or Tram are very proud to see them get the reward they so richly deserve."

Video: Morris' conference call following HOF announcement

Others, like Fulmer and catcher James McCann, know him as a teacher, working with the organization as an instructor from Detroit to the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.

Tweet from @JamesMcCann34: Congrats to Tram and Jack! What an honor! Blessed to be able to talk baseball and learn from them! #HOF #Detroit #Tigers

Tweet from @MFulmer12: Congrats to Alan Trammell and Jack Morris! Honored to have been able to meet and know 2 Hall of Famers!

Kaline is Mr. Tiger, having played his entire 22-year Major League career with Detroit before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. He retired as a player three years before Morris and Trammell made their Major League debuts in 1977, but watched them as a broadcaster in the 1980s. He has shared a spot in the front office with Trammell the past few years, and was quietly optimistic both would get in.

"I congratulate Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Kaline said. "Playing for the Tigers was truly a privilege, and to go into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger is a milestone that I am thrilled to now share with both of them. I am honored that they will join those who wear the Olde English 'D' in Cooperstown."

Likewise, fellow former Tigers great and special assistant Willie Horton noted their recognition. He's the last Tigers player to have his number retired.

"Having been a part of the Tigers and this city for many years," Horton said, "I have been able to witness the impact that Tram and Jack have had not only on the game of baseball, but in the city of Detroit. It is a celebrated addition to our rich history to have them properly recognized for their contributions."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers aim to soften rebuild at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers are open for business this week with an eye toward the future, fittingly in the shadow of EPCOT's Future World.

As baseball's Winter Meetings get underway this week, the Tigers continue to look for low-risk, high-upside signings to soften their rebuild while fielding trade interest in veteran players such as second baseman Ian Kinsler. Expect both quests to yield some activity as Major League front offices and agents gather in one place and talk deals face-to-face rather than swapping texts or phone calls.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers are open for business this week with an eye toward the future, fittingly in the shadow of EPCOT's Future World.

As baseball's Winter Meetings get underway this week, the Tigers continue to look for low-risk, high-upside signings to soften their rebuild while fielding trade interest in veteran players such as second baseman Ian Kinsler. Expect both quests to yield some activity as Major League front offices and agents gather in one place and talk deals face-to-face rather than swapping texts or phone calls.

Business has been building over the past week, with the Tigers signing Major League contracts with speedy center fielder Leonys Martin and potential bounceback starter Mike Fiers. Both are two years away from free agency, essentially giving the Tigers flexibility to keep the players or trade them for prospects if they regain past form or cut ties if they don't. Expect more deals along those lines as the free-agent market sorts itself out.

Hot Stove Tracker

Kinsler, shortstop Jose Iglesias, closer Shane Greene and others could garner trade discussions as clubs look for short-term help and the Tigers look for payroll relief and prospects in return.

New Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire will talk with reporters and national media on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET. It'll mark his first media session since his introductory press conference in October, and his first remarks since having a chance to look over the roster he has inherited. Look for his comments here on the site.

Finally, look for the Tigers to be busy when the Meetings wrap up Thursday morning with the annual Rule 5 Draft, allowing teams to pluck unprotected prospects from other organizations for a fee. The last time Detroit was in this extensive of a rebuild 15 years ago, they drafted three players in the Rule 5. The draft begins at 9 a.m.

It all makes for an interesting backdrop as the meetings begin.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the Winter Meetings, from insider analysis and player breakdown to interviews with club managers, general managers and other newsmakers. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft. Look for coverage at tigers.com throughout the week, from breaking news to daily reports to a podcast midweek. Feel free to sound off on Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the comments section.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Watch Trammell and Morris in 1984

The 1984 Detroit Tigers featured some great players -- and now, two of them are in the Hall of Fame. On Sunday, it was announced that shortstop Alan Trammell and pitcher Jack Morris were named to the Class of 2018 by the Modern Era Committee. 

The '84 Tigers went 104-58 and coasted through the postseason, sweeping the Royals in the ALCS and taking down the Padres in five games to win the World Series. It was the franchise's fourth championship, and still their most recent.

Leyland confident Gardenhire right for Detroit

Retired Tigers manager believes in former foe, club's new skipper
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire mentioned a bevy of people in his introductory press conference as Tigers manager in October. The very first was an old nemesis.

"Jim Leyland and I were good buddies, one of the managers that I talked to an awful lot," Gardenhire said that afternoon. "Tampering was one of his favorite things to do, and he told me, 'When I leave, I want you to manage here.' He did that a lot, and I loved him for it."

DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire mentioned a bevy of people in his introductory press conference as Tigers manager in October. The very first was an old nemesis.

"Jim Leyland and I were good buddies, one of the managers that I talked to an awful lot," Gardenhire said that afternoon. "Tampering was one of his favorite things to do, and he told me, 'When I leave, I want you to manage here.' He did that a lot, and I loved him for it."

Those remarks weren't quite that direct, Leyland insisted, but he did say them. It was one of the things they discussed during their chats behind the cage during batting practice. Leyland didn't venture out to talk to every manager in that setting, but he did for Gardenhire.

Video: Avila talks hiring Gardenhire on MLB Tonight

"I wasn't really tampering or anything," Leyland recalled. "What I meant was you could see that with our market, what Mr. [Mike] Ilitch was doing, the people that were coming out to the ballpark, and we had an owner who wanted to win here, I hope you get a chance to manage here at some point, because this is a great place.

"I just always thought that he'd be a perfect fit for a place like Detroit. I really believe that, and I think you're going to see that come true."

Leyland saw a little bit of himself in Gardenhire, a scrappy player who had to pay his dues in the Minor Leagues and then coaching in the Majors before earning his chance to manage. Leyland saw how Gardenhire handled his players, got the most out of them, and handled the media. If Gardenhire ever left Minnesota, Leyland believed, he could be a kindred spirit to fans in Detroit.

Video: Ron Gardenhire joins Hot Stove to discuss new role

"He's a blue-collar, nuts-and-bolts, no-BS guy," Leyland said.

Gardenhire's assessment of Leyland was similar.

"It was fascinating just watching him how he handled people," Gardenhire said. "He was a no-nonsense guy, yes, but he had a certain aura around him that when he talked, people stopped and listened. That's where you want to get in your career."

When Gardenhire climbs the dugout steps at Comerica on March 29 and hears the roar of a crowd that treats Opening Day like Michigan's unofficial holiday, he'll know what Leyland meant. And yet, they'll always be connected by an October afternoon under the roof in the Metrodome, nearly a decade earlier.

* * *

The 2009 American League Central Division tiebreaker was technically an extra regular-season game, tacked onto the schedule to decide the division, but it was essentially a winner-take-all playoff. It was the culmination of a crazy race. Detroit led by seven games on Labor Day, but Minnesota closed in over the next four weeks until drawing even on the final weekend.

"You have that feeling, every once in a while, where every day you get to the park you think you're going to win," Gardenhire said. "And we had that feeling towards the end. We just weren't going to be denied. You just felt it."

For Tigers fans, it rekindled bad memories of 2006, when the Twins rallied from nine games down in August to overtake them in the regular-season finale and relegate Detroit to the Wild Card. The Tigers went to the World Series that year, while the Twins were swept out of the Division Series, but Detroit fans never forgot the collapse.

Video: Gardenhire on balancing different managing styles

Leyland and Gardenhire knew each other before that year, having met at a fantasy camp when Leyland was managing the Pirates. That was Gardenhire's first chance to hear Leyland sing. But as opponents, Leyland picked up a new respect for Gardenhire, watching how he ran his team.

"I'd see Gardy out there at batting practice, talking to the infielders or something. He was a very thorough guy," Leyland said. "I was always very impressed with the way he handled himself, handled his team. He's one of those guys you manage against and all of a sudden he does stuff to get your attention, the way he handles stuff, things that stood out."

Leyland didn't have to do anything to draw Gardenhire's attention, just be himself.

"I just eyeballed him in the dugout. He was so intense," Gardenhire said. "I loved the way he walked to the mound. He had the stride out there. More than the game and everything, he just didn't miss much.

"But it was before the game walking out behind home plate, Leyland would put his arm around us. We had some of the best conversations. He was like Tom Kelly to me, one of those mentors. He would ask me questions, what do you think about this or that."

He respected Gardenhire enough that he invited him onto his coaching staff for the 2007 All-Star Game; Gardenhire accepted it for the chance to watch Leyland work up close.

"That would be more entertainment than I could take," Gardenhire said.

Video: Intentional Talk on Gardenhire being hired by Tigers

With the division title on the line that day in 2009, however, there was no time for friendly conversation. The weather in Minneapolis was miserable, one of the rare good days for a baseball game indoors. It was warm in the Metrodome, and with a sellout crowd on short notice, it was loud.

* * *

Neither team had the chance to line up their rotations. Since Justin Verlander pitched two days earlier, the Tigers' hopes rested on 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello opposite Twins 15-game winner Scott Baker. Porcello fell an out shy of a quality start, but left with a lead after 5 2/3 innings and eight strikeouts. Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer put the Tigers in command in the third inning, but the Twins chipped away until Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer off Zach Miner put Minnesota ahead in the seventh.

Two pitches into the eighth, Magglio Ordonez hit a solo homer to tie it. That's where it stayed into extra innings, setting up Leyland and Gardenhire to match wits.

"It was obviously one of the greatest games I was ever involved in," Leyland said. "It was kind of a funny game. They had a chance. We had a chance. They had a chance."

The managerial moves comprised a game in itself. Twins closer Joe Nathan entered in a tie game and took it to extras by recording five outs, capped by a line-drive double play with the go-ahead run on third. Tigers counterpart Fernando Rodney entered with the potential winning run in scoring position in the ninth and pitched into the 12th, throwing 48 pitches.

"I can remember Fernando Rodney saying, 'I'm good, I'm good.' What a trooper and a warrior he was," Leyland said.

Video: Allen discusses Gardenhire using analytics as manager

Yet for these managers, it was fitting that role players would determine their fate. Don Kelly, a September callup who became a Tigers fan favorite two years later, pinch-ran in the 10th and scored from first base on a Brandon Inge double to put the Tigers ahead. Matt Tolbert, a light-hitting rookie, tied the game with a single in the bottom half. Alexi Casilla, a pinch-runner, nearly ended it a few pitches later, tagging up on a fly ball to left, but Ryan Raburn threw him out at the plate.

"We were all screaming, 'Tag! Tag! Tag!' Raburn threw a stinking pellet and got him," Gardenhire recalled. "We thought the game was over."

Both managers remember the Bobby Keppel pitch that brushed Inge's jersey but didn't bounce off him with the bases loaded in the 12th inning. With no replay system, there was no way to review it, denying Inge a go-ahead hit-by-pitch.

Both, too, remember Casilla coming back up in the bottom of the 12th inning and winning it with a single.

"That was some sort of baseball game," Gardenhire said. "That had everything. I know we were exhausted, and we won. I was out of gas, and we had to play the next night in New York."

By the time the four-hour, 37-minute marathon was over, whoever won was doomed in the American League Division Series. Whoever lost would feel worse. Those emotions aside, it was an amazing final baseball game in the Metrodome.

Video: Oct. 6, 2009, Twins win No. 163

Leyland and the Tigers were crushed, and the trades that followed led to a mini-rebuild in 2010, while the Twins won another division title. Those deals set up the Tigers' run of four straight division titles as the Twins peeled off. Now, it's Gardenhire's challenge to try to lead the Tigers to that path again.

"I think Gardy's going to be absolutely great for Detroit. I don't think there's any question about it," Leyland said. "I think he's really going to be a big hit in Detroit. I think he understands the challenge ahead of him."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers, Fiers agree to one-year pact

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers' search for low-risk, high-upside pitching has brought them to a familiar foe, reaching agreement on a one-year $6 million contract with former Astros starter Mike Fiers. The club announced the deal on Friday, and the 40-man roster is now at 40.

Hot Stove Tracker

DETROIT -- The Tigers' search for low-risk, high-upside pitching has brought them to a familiar foe, reaching agreement on a one-year $6 million contract with former Astros starter Mike Fiers. The club announced the deal on Friday, and the 40-man roster is now at 40.

Hot Stove Tracker

For the Tigers, it was the second deal this week with a recently non-tendered player, following a one-year contract with outfielder Leonys Martin on Tuesday. For Fiers, it was a chance to get his game back in order with players and coaches he knows.

"I want to pitch in Detroit," Fiers told MLB.com in a phone interview from his home in South Florida. "I think Detroit is a good fit for me."

Fiers said he had two-year contract offers from multiple clubs, but liked the fit in Detroit. New Tigers coach Chris Bosio was his pitching coach on his way up the Brewers farm system. He went 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA under Bosio's tutelage.

"I had a great season that year," Fiers said, "and I think he was one of the reasons why. Just a great guy, knows his stuff, really connects with you as a pitcher instead of just going through the motions."

Fiers was a key late-season acquisition for Houston in 2015, tossing a no-hitter against the Dodgers in his fourth Houston start, and became an 11-game winner for the Astros in 2016 before inconsistent command hampered him this past season. He went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA in 28 starts and a relief appearance. He struck out 146 batters over 153 1/3 innings, but his 62 walks marked a career-high ratio of 3.6 walks per nine innings. He also led the league with 13 hit batsmen while yielding 32 home runs, half of them at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

Fiers had flashes of his old form, including seven innings of two-run ball with no walks and 11 strikeouts against the Twins on July 16. But he also ended his season with eight runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Angels on Sept. 13 in Anaheim. Yet there was neither a velocity drop in his pitches -- his fastball has averaged just over 89 mph in each of his last four seasons -- nor a major change of use rate in his pitches.

Video: MIN@HOU: Fiers fans 11 over seven strong innings

"I started off the year all right," Fiers said. "I hit a stretch in June and July where I was probably one of the best pitchers in baseball at the time. My last four of five starts didn't go well at all and my ERA jumped up pretty quick. Obviously one of my worst years in terms of numbers that way, but I still did a lot for that team to get to the postseason and ended up winning at all.

"The hit-by-pitches were moreso curveballs backing up. I was struggling with my curveball, so I was trying different things throughout the year. I would have it and then not have it, just couldn't get in a good run except for those two months in June and July."

Fiers was left off the postseason roster on Houston's road through the World Series and its first-ever title. The Astros non-tendered him last week rather than go through arbitration; Fiers made $3.45 million this year.

The one-year contract could benefit Fiers and the Tigers next offseason if he has a bounce-back season. The 32-year-old is two seasons away from free agency; he can go through the arbitration process next offseason if the Tigers (or another team, if he's traded) hold on to him, or he can hit the open market again if he's again non-tendered.

Most important for Fiers, though, was the fit. Besides his familiarity with Bosio, he knows several Tigers from growing up in South Florida, including Nick Castellanos and the Avila family. He has worked out at times with Miguel Cabrera over the years, and was a college teammate of former Tiger J.D. Martinez, whom he said gave him good reviews of the organization.

"Just having reviews from other players was the biggest thing," he said.

In addition to the Orioles' offer, the Cubs and Twins also showed interest.

The Tigers have been searching for upside in a free-agent market that has seen Miles Mikolas and Tyler Chatwood sign multiyear deals. They've shown interest in former Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who had similar struggles this past season after a 16-win, 4.1-WAR season in 2016. Detroit has also in recent offseasons been quick on the market for free-agent starters under general manager Al Avila, who inked Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey before the Winter Meetings two years ago.

The Tigers would like to sign a couple of starters to provide rotation depth behind youngsters Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris, with Zimmermann trying to bounce back from his struggles over the last season and a half. Detroit also has former Rockies farmhand Ryan Carpenter, a left-hander who became a Minor League free agent last month but signed a big league deal.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Fiers

What a winter: In 2007, Tigers landed big Fish

Detroit scores Cabrera from Marlins a decade ago after covert Meetings
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Marlins could make the biggest deal at next week's Winter Meetings if they trade Giancarlo Stanton. It still might not match their biggest deal at a Winter Meetings.

Ten years ago this week, the Tigers went to the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., with all the appearances of a team tying up loose ends, having made big deals earlier in the offseason. Instead, they walked out of Opryland Hotel a few days later with Miguel Cabrera.

DETROIT -- The Marlins could make the biggest deal at next week's Winter Meetings if they trade Giancarlo Stanton. It still might not match their biggest deal at a Winter Meetings.

Ten years ago this week, the Tigers went to the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., with all the appearances of a team tying up loose ends, having made big deals earlier in the offseason. Instead, they walked out of Opryland Hotel a few days later with Miguel Cabrera.

Video: DET@TB: Cabrera clubs 451-foot homer on his birthday

What happened between was a combination of opportunity and intrigue.

"We'll look at any opportunity where we think we can get better," then-president/GM Dave Dombrowski said beforehand, "but I don't think we have a gaping situation we have to address. We'll talk to people. We'll explore. We'll see what makes sense."

By the time of those remarks, Dombrowski had already received his directive from owner Mike Ilitch, who had read reports of the Marlins putting their young slugger on the trade market. Ilitch had already invested heavily to turn around the Tigers, mainly in free agency with the signings of Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers.

Hot Stove Tracker

Ilitch didn't have the World Series ring he wanted, but he had a contender. But he also coveted a star player, an MVP-type hitter to pair with blossoming starter Justin Verlander. Rodriguez and Ordonez were still All-Stars, Ordonez having won a batting title in 2007, but they were aging. That type of hitter wasn't in Detroit's farm system, though Cameron Maybin had the makings of an athletic outfielder with speed and power.

Cabrera was that hitter, having batted .313 with a .929 OPS and three 30-homer seasons over four full years in Miami. He was also just 24, and his best years were still to come. For that type of hitter to be available in a trade was a rarity, and Ilitch wanted Dombrowski to explore if it was feasible.

Other teams, of course, had the same thought, which is why the Marlins were willing to put Cabrera on the market two years away from free agency to try and maximize their return. The Angels, behind similarly aggressive owner Arte Moreno, were heavily interested and viewed within the industry as Cabrera's likely destination. As former MLB.com columnist Lyle Spencer chronicled, the Angels had young starters to offer in Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, and coveted prospects in Nick Adenhart and Brandon Wood.

Unlike Stanton, Cabrera didn't have a no-trade clause, having never signed a long-term contract in Miami. It was a true bidding war, and the best offer was going to win out. The Tigers had one of their deepest farm systems in years led by former top picks Maybin and Andrew Miller. Just as important, they had Ilitch's deep pocketbook.

Still, it was far from a certainty.

"It was a funny thing. Going into the meetings, we had never talked about it," former Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "The first meeting [there], it was never mentioned. I think it was a total shock to everybody. I don't think there's any way, shape or form that Dave Dombrowski went to those meetings thinking we were going to get Miguel Cabrera."

They made their interest known in classic Dombrowski fashion, with one scout talking to another. Also in classic Dombrowski form, they didn't waste time.

Video: Miguel Cabrera's 2017 highlights

"My wife and I walked into Opryland Hotel," said Dan Jennings, then an assistant to Marlins GM Larry Beinfest, "and [Tigers scout Mike] Russell just so happened to be waiting right at the check-in desk."

The Tigers wanted Cabrera, and they wanted his teammate, Dontrelle Willis. The Marlins, in turn, wanted Maybin and Miller. With those concepts agreed upon, the trade had its foundation.

The Tigers not only offered up Maybin and Miller, they threw in four Minor Leaguers, including Double-A power sinkerballer Dallas Trahern, hard-throwing reliever Frankie De La Cruz and Arizona Fall League prospect Burke Badenhop.

Once Dombrowski believed they had the makings of a deal, he sequestered Tigers officials in his hotel suite, fearful word of their interest would spread and other teams might jump in. The old-school image of scouts and GMs mingling in the lobby gave way to phone conversations and sneaky walks down hallways. Even then-manager Jim Leyland was limited to smoke breaks and one dinner with good friend and then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The rest of the Tigers' contingent ordered room service.

They were shut in for two days.

"We literally ran out of toilet paper," Russell recalled.

Exactly what made the difference depends on who you ask. Some say the Angels' refusal to include promising young infielder Howie Kendrick doomed them. Others claim the Willis inclusion was the difference. But by the last full day of the meetings, the Marlins and Tigers had an agreement, and Ilitch had his superstar.

Monday marked the 10-year anniversary of the deal. As the Tigers begin to rebuild around young talent, Cabrera has not only become the face of the franchise, but arguably the legacy of Ilitch, who passed away in February without the World Series title he passionately pursued. Cabrera has a Triple Crown, four batting titles, two American League MVP Awards and seven All-Star selections in Detroit. Willis went 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA over 24 games, walking nearly a batter an inning, before being traded to Arizona in 2010.

Video: Cabrera reflects on winning second straight MVP

"We got one of the best young players in all of baseball, who's obviously been a great player for the past 10 years and one of the real impact guys in all the game," Leyland said. "He's probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That's a huge trade."

Jennings sees the similarities between Stanton and Cabrera in terms of buildup. But he sees Cabrera in a class of his own. Every time Jennings visits Lakeland, Fla., in Spring Training, he tries to say hello.

"This is my 30th year in the game," he said, "and Miguel Cabrera is still the best hitter I've ever seen. Just a special kid. Fun to watch where he started and where he went."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers

Castellanos may be heart of order, Tigers in '18

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Nicholas Castellanos' long-term future in the Motor City remains to be seen as the Tigers embark on a multi-year rebuilding project. In the short term, though, he's one of the reasons to keep an eye on Comerica Park.

On a team that ranges from aging veterans whose best seasons appear to be behind them and young players who will be learning on the job in 2018, Castellanos is one of the few Tigers who falls into the sweet spot. After four seasons of figuring out how to approach big league pitching, he put together his line-drive approach and knowledge of opponents to produce his most impactful season to date.

DETROIT -- Nicholas Castellanos' long-term future in the Motor City remains to be seen as the Tigers embark on a multi-year rebuilding project. In the short term, though, he's one of the reasons to keep an eye on Comerica Park.

On a team that ranges from aging veterans whose best seasons appear to be behind them and young players who will be learning on the job in 2018, Castellanos is one of the few Tigers who falls into the sweet spot. After four seasons of figuring out how to approach big league pitching, he put together his line-drive approach and knowledge of opponents to produce his most impactful season to date.

He's still just 25, with his 26th birthday coming in March. Moreover, go beyond his career-bests of 36 doubles, 10 triples, 26 home runs and 101 RBIs in 2017, and the metrics behind that production suggest he's capable of much more. With J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton gone, Ian Kinsler potentially soon to follow, and Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez coming off injuries, the Tigers need Castellanos' production to be competitive in 2018.

Just 11 Major League players hit more balls than Castellanos with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater this past season, according to Statcast™, and just nine players had more barreled balls.

Video: DET@KC: Castellanos homers twice, drives in five

Yet, while Castellanos was one of just 12 players with at least 50 barrels in 2017, none had a lower batting average on those barrels than Castellanos, and it wasn't close. He was 34-for-51 (.667); the next-lowest average was .796 from Baltimore's Manny Machado.

Simlarly, while Castellanos posted a hard-hit ball rate of 45.4 percent to rank fifth among Major League hitters according to Fangraphs, his .313 batting average on balls in play was second-lowest among those top five players in hard-hit rate. Only Rangers slugger Joey Gallo (.250) had a lower mark.

The same dichotomy appears when looking at line-drive rate, a ratio in which Castellanos has generally thrived over his career. His 24.5 percent rate according to Fangraphs ranked 10th in the Majors, but his BABIP was third-lowest among those top 10. Considering Castellanos had a better hard-hit rate in 2016 (25.6 percent) and for his career (25.2), he's capable of better. If he gets there, the production could be big.

After four years of being a complementary hitter in a stacked, veteran Tigers lineup, Castellanos' opportunity to be part of the Tigers' core has arrived. After spending much of this season's first half batting second, sixth or seventh in the Tigers' lineup, Castellanos moved to the heart of the order after all the trades, batting third or fourth in tandem with Cabrera. He'll likely have a full season there next year, even if Cabrera and Martinez are healthy.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos