I’ll start with a public service announcement: If you haven’t already, subscribe to The Athletic TODAY. For those who can’t bear to scale the 16¢-per-day paywall, I’ll spot you a quarter — just this once.

The Athletic is the future, though its business model is a couple centuries old. It’s only been over the last 20 years since the idea paying a small fee for quality content (ie. newspapers, magazines, etc…) became a foreign concept with the advent of the interwebs. But the emerging behemoth is building its sports-writing empire on this old idea and — more importantly — on the stupidity of bloated mega-corporations like ESPN and FOX Sports who are discarding the finest writers in the game like Hall of Famers Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark.

The latter penned a scathing — and 100% factual — piece that pinpoints one of the many reasons Al Avila is a complete failure as Tigers GM. Stark looks at the meager returns the Tigers have received for the “Ruthian” bats they’ve given away over the last four years. The latest of which, Nick Castellanos, is currently destroying the National League and looking right at home Wrigley Field (I think he just killed some more ivy with yet another smash off the wall of the Friendly Confines as I type this).

Earlier in the decade, the Giants displayed a rare mastery in even-numbered years, winning the World Series in 2010, ’12 and ’14. The latter part of the decade has given us a trend in odd-numbered years – Tigers hitters who get traded in their free-agent years and become Ruthian figures with their new clubs.








Yoenis Céspedes






J.D. Martinez






Nicholas Castellanos





I could’ve done without Stark’s snarky (Starky?) and painful juxtaposition of the Giants’ successes versus the Tigers failures over the past decade, but it’s an apt analogy and he refrained from twisting the knife by mentioning the 2012 SF championship came at the expense of the Tigers.

Instead, he plunges that truth knife much deeper:

The returns for Céspedes, Martinez, and Castellanos, you ask?

Keep in mind all three were rentals. But only the Céspedes deal, one of Dave Dombrowski’s last acts as GM, worked to the Tigers’ benefit, bringing back right-hander Michael Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year, as well as righty Luis Cessa.

Dombrowski’s replacement, Al Avila, seemingly did not fare as well for Martinez and Castellanos, in part because the defensive limitations of the two sluggers compromised their respective trade values.

Martinez went for three minor-league infielders, including Dawel Lugo, who has a .606 OPS in 299 plate appearances in the majors; and Sergio Alcantara, the team’s No. 15 prospect. Castellanos went for minor-league right-handers Paul Richan and Alex Lange, the Tigers’ No. 19 and 29 prospects, respectively.


It’s quite generous to characterize the Cespedes deal as having “worked” as Fulmer has essentially had one good year as a Tiger followed by three years of mediocrity and catastrophic injury. And while some of the blame could be put on Dombrowksi, the fact remains the Avila had been Diamond Dave’s right-hand man since 2002.

I understand Avila’s hands are tied in a number of ways as the club has been forced to rebuild while being saddled by Miguel Cabrera‘s massive contact (guess what kids, only FOUR more years to go…) and a new ownership directive under Chris Ilitch who seems unwilling to spend the way his free-wheeling father did before his death.

Shrewd trades coupled with wise drafting are the only avenues of escape left from facing a bleak future not unlike what Tigers fans experienced for nearly 20 years between the late 1980s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, we have seen little evidence that Avila is capable of finding either.