Former Tigers GM Al Avila has a couple moves he'd like back toward the end of his tenure in Detroit, but believes the Tigers are a "sleeping giant" that's ready to wake up.
"If you're around this game long enough," Avila said this week on the show Foul Territory, "you’re going to have some of those that you regret ... the kind that leave a bad taste in your mouth."
While he pointed to "good trades" like Daniel Norris for Reese Olson, Nick Castellanos for Alex Lange, and Shane Greene for Joey Wentz -- "those three (players) right now are on the big-league club" -- Avila acknowledged two that "obviously didn’t work out too well."
The first was trading Isaac Paredes to the Rays for Austin Meadows ahead of last season: "Meadows hasn’t been on the (active) roster last year and this year and Paredes is doing very well for Tampa. So that’s obviously a really tough one to take," Avila said.
While Meadows has been sidelined by injuries and anxiety during his time in Detroit, Paredes has hit 29 homers for Tampa. Meadows has hit zero homers in 42 games for the Tigers.
"There’s other ones that don’t go as well, but you did the best you could. I’ll give you a perfect example on the Justin Verlander (trade). With Verlander, we got actually a pretty good return," Avila said.
The Tigers traded Verlander to the Astros at the waiver deadline in August of 2016 for prospects Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers. Perez was the prize of the return, but the pitcher succumbed to injuries and never made it close to Detroit. Cameron is in Triple-A with the Orioles after failing to stick with the Tigers, while Rogers is a part-time catcher in Detroit.
"If you look back at that trade at that time and the players that we got back, the only one that’s on the team right now is Jake Rogers, but that was a pretty good return that just didn’t turn out to be very good," Avila said. "But you get into that situation, he was traded basically beyond the trade deadline, he passed through waivers, nobody claimed him, so to make a trade like that is very, very difficult, in particular to get that kind of return."
As for where the Tigers are now, a little less than a year after he was fired, Avila says they're "not that far off." He called them an "up-and-coming team" that will get a "huge boost" when injured pitchers like Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning -- all of whom were drafted under Avila's watch -- return to the rotation.
The Tigers enter play Friday with a record of 26-33 (.433) after finishing 66-96 (.407) last year. Their eight-year playoff drought is tied for the longest in Major League Baseball.
"Looking back, I thought this year was going to be an improvement, which it has been," Avila said. "They’ve got a young nucleus of players, they’ve got some injured guys that are going to be coming back later this year or next year, so they’re not that far off. My expectation is they’re going to have a good year this year and then in 2024, I think they should be pushing for a playoff spot."
Avila also commended ownership for being "all-in," called new president of baseball ops Scott Harris "a really smart kid who knows what he’s doing" and said "the minor leagues is in good hands with (VP of player development) Ryan Garko."
"He’s going to be a GM pretty soon, too," Avila said of Garko, 42. "It’s a great organization with really great people right now and they’ve got a good nucleus of players that will be developing soon."